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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Prayer and the Chain Saw - Our Daily Bread Ministries daily devotion 17 October Wednesday

Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant. Nehemiah 1:11
I respect my Aunt Gladys’s intrepid spirit, even if that very spirit concerns me sometimes. The source of my concern came in the form of news she shared in an email: “I cut down a walnut tree yesterday.”
You must understand that my chainsaw-wielding aunt is seventy-six years old! The tree had grown up behind her garage. When the roots threatened to burst through the concrete, she knew it had to go. But she did tell us, “I always pray before I tackle a job like that.”
While serving as butler to the king of Persia during the time of Israel’s exile, Nehemiah heard news concerning the people who had returned to Jerusalem. Some work needed to be done. “The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3). The broken walls left them vulnerable to attack by enemies. Nehemiah had compassion for his people and wanted to get involved. But prayer came first, especially since a new king had written a letter to stop the building efforts in Jerusalem (see Ezra 4). Nehemiah prayed for his people (Nehemiah 1:5–10), and then asked God for help before requesting permission from the king to leave (v. 11).
Is prayer your response? It’s always the best way to face any task or trial in life.
Father, Your Holy Spirit reminds us to pray first. Today, we commit to doing so as Your Spirit prompts us.
Make prayer a first priority, instead of a last resort.
By Linda Washington | See Other Authors

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Terrible and Beautiful Things - Our Daily Bread Ministries daily devotion 16 October

Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. Psalm 57:8
Fear can leave us frozen. We know all the reasons to be afraid—everything that’s hurt us in the past, everything that could easily do so again. So sometimes we’re stuck—unable to go back; too afraid to move forward. I just can’t do it. I’m not smart enough, strong enough, or brave enough to handle being hurt like that again.
I’m captivated by how author Frederick Buechner describes God’s grace: like a gentle voice that says, “Here is the world. Terrible and beautiful things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you.”
Terrible things will happen. In our world, hurting people hurt other people, often terribly. Like the psalmist David, we carry our own stories of when evil surrounded us, when, like “ravenous beasts,” others wounded us (Psalm 57:4). And so we grieve; we cry out (vv. 1–2).
But because God is with us, beautiful things can happen too. As we run to Him with our hurts and fears, we find ourselves carried by a love far greater than anyone’s power to harm us (vv. 1–3), a love so deep it fills the skies (v. 10). Even when disaster rages around us, His love is a solid refuge where our hearts find healing (vv. 1, 7). Until one day we’ll find ourselves awakening to renewed courage, ready to greet the day with a song of His faithfulness (vv. 8–10).
Healer and Redeemer, thank You for holding us and healing us with Your endless love. Help us find in Your love the courage to follow You and share Your love with those around us.
God’s love and beauty make us brave.
By Monica Brands | See Other Authors

INSIGHT

In the book of Psalms, superscriptions often precede the actual text. These notes shed light on the individual or group designated to lead the composition, the author, or the situation that inspired the lyrics. The superscription for Psalm 57 tells us David wrote this psalm “when he had fled from Saul into the cave.” Scripture records two times when David found refuge from Saul in a cave (1 Samuel 22 and 24). While there is uncertainty as to which of these two incidents is in view here, the truth of the psalm is crystal clear—the fearful, the anxious, the fleeing can find ultimate safety in the Lord (Psalm 57:1).
When was the last time a difficult situation caused you to call out to “God Most High”? (v. 2).

Trust Him First - Our Daily Bread Ministries daily devotion 15 October

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms. Psalm 68:19 nlt
“Don’t let go, Dad!”
“I won’t. I’ve got you. I promise.”   
I was a little boy terrified of the water, but my dad wanted me to learn to swim. He would purposefully take me away from the side of the pool into a depth that was over my head, where he was my only support. Then he would teach me to relax and float.
It wasn’t just a swimming lesson; it was a lesson in trust. I knew my father loved me and would never let me be harmed intentionally, but I was also afraid. I would cling tightly to his neck until he reassured me all would be well. Eventually his patience and kindness won out, and I began to swim. But I had to trust him first.
When I feel “over my head” in a difficulty, I sometimes think back on those moments. They help me call to mind the Lord’s reassurance to His people: “Even to your old age . . . I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you” (Isaiah 46:4).
We may not always be able to feel God’s arms beneath us, but the Lord has promised that He will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5). As we rest in His care and promises, He helps us learn to trust in His faithfulness. He lifts us above our worries to discover new peace in Him.
Abba, Father, I praise You for carrying me through life. Please give me faith to trust that You are always with me.
God carries us to new places of grace as we trust in Him.
By James Banks | See Other Authors

INSIGHT

For further reading on trust in God during difficult times, see the free booklet Anchors in the Storm at discoveryseries.org/hp073.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Ask the Animals - Our Daily Bread Ministries daily devotion 14 October

Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you. Job 12:7
Our grandkids, enraptured, got a close-up look at a rescued bald eagle. They were even allowed to touch him. As the zoo volunteer told about the powerful bird perched on her arm, I was surprised to learn this male had a wingspan of about six and one-half feet, yet because of its hollow bones it weighed only about eight pounds.
This reminded me of the majestic eagle I had seen soaring above a lake, ready to swoop down and snatch its prey in its talons. And I pictured in my mind another big bird—the spindly legged blue heron I had spied standing motionless on the edge of a pond. It was poised to dart its long beak into the water. They’re just two among the nearly 10,000 species of birds that can direct our thoughts to our Creator.
In the book of Job, Job’s friends are debating the reasons for his suffering and ask, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God?” (see 11:5–9). In response Job declares, “Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you” (Job 12:7). Animals testify to the truth that God designed, cares for, and controls His creation: “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (v. 10).
Since God cares for birds (Matthew 6:26; 10:29), we can be assured He loves and cares for you and me, even when we don’t understand our circumstances. Look around and learn of Him.
Where is your favorite place in God’s world? Share your photos with others on Facebook.com/ourdailybread.
God’s world teaches us about Him.
By Alyson Kieda | See Other Authors

INSIGHT

Gaining a good grasp of the book of Job requires us to understand its literary structure. Though the book begins (chs. 1–2) and ends (42:7–16) in narrative format, the bulk of the book is comprised of speeches packaged in poetry (3:1–42:6), including the stunning monologue of the Almighty Himself (38:1–41:34). By the time the reader comes to chapter 12, all three of Job’s friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—have spoken once. Two more series of speeches follow, and in the last series a fourth counselor (Elihu) enters the picture (chs. 32–37). In their well-ordered and reasoned speeches, each friend offers explanations for Job’s calamities and prescriptions for a remedy. Job himself is the speaker in chapter 12, where he indicts the denseness of his first three accusers. He directs them to nature which teaches us about the supremacy and sovereignty of God. In verses 7–8, the language of instruction is quite clear: Animals “will teach”; birds “will tell”; the earth “will teach”; the fish will “inform.” Without a word they witness to the wisdom and greatness of God.
Can you recall a time when you were prompted to reflect on God’s greatness by something in nature?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

He Carried Our Burden - Our Daily Bread Ministries daily devotion 13 October Saturday

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
It’s not unusual for utility bills to be surprisingly high. But Kieran Healy of North Carolina received a water bill that would make your heart stop. The notification said that he owed 100 million dollars! Confident he hadn’t used that much water the previous month, Healy jokingly asked if he could pay the bill in installments.
Owing a 100-million-dollar debt would be an overwhelming burden, but that pales in comparison to the real—and immeasurable—burden sin causes us to carry. Attempting to carry the burden and consequences of our own sins ultimately leaves us feeling tired and riddled with guilt and shame. The truth is we are incapable of carrying this load.
And we were never meant to. As Peter reminded believers, only Jesus, the sinless Son of God, could carry the heavy burden of our sin and its weighty consequences (1 Peter 2:24). In His death on the cross, Jesus took all our wrongdoing on Himself and offered us His forgiveness. Because He carried our burden, we don’t have to suffer the punishment we deserve.
Instead of living in fear or guilt, the “empty way of life handed down to” us (1:18), we can enjoy a new life of love and freedom (vv. 22–23).
Lord, sometimes our guilt and shame can feel so heavy. Help us to release our past and its pain to You and experience Your peace, knowing You have carried it all and have set us free.
Jesus carried the burden of our sin so He could give us the blessing of life.
By Marvin Williams | See Other Authors

INSIGHT

Our natural instinct is to lash out against injustice. But Jesus’s example (which is what Peter called it in 1 Peter 2:21) calls us to higher ground. Notice verse 23: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” Rather than returning what, arguably, His tormenters deserved, Jesus refused. In a sense, He chose to look up to the Father rather than down to those who caused His pain. Perhaps that was behind His prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). In entrusting Himself to the Father, Jesus felt no need for retaliation.
For more on the cross, read The Mockery and Majesty of the Cross at discoveryseries.org/hp081.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Twinkle - Our Daily Bread Ministries daily devotion 6 October

Shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. Philippians 2:15–16
“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is an English lullaby. Its lyrics, originally a poem by Jane Taylor, capture the wonder of God’s universe where stars hang “up above the world so high.” In the rarely published later stanzas, the star acts as a guide: “As your bright and tiny spark lights the traveler in the dark.”  
In Philippians, Paul challenges believers in Philippi to be blameless and pure as they “shine . . . like stars in the sky” while offering the good news of the gospel to all around them (2:15–16). We wonder how we can shine like stars. We often feel inadequate and struggle to think our “light” is bright enough to make a difference. But stars don’t try to be stars. They just are. Light changes our world. And it changes us. God brought physical light into our world (Genesis 1:3); and through Jesus, God brings spiritual light into our lives (John 1:1–4).
We who have God’s light in us are to shine in such a way that those around us see light and are drawn to its source. As effortlessly as a star hanging in the night sky, our light makes a difference because of what it is: Light! When we simply shine, we follow Paul’s directive to “hold firmly to the word of life” in a world in deep darkness, and we draw others to the source of our hope: Jesus.
Dear God, may Your light shine out of the very cracks of our beings as we hold out the Word of life to others.
Jesus brings light into our life.
By Elisa Morgan | See Other Authors

INSIGHT

Paul’s words here—“Do everything without grumbling or arguing” (Philippians 2:14)—remind us of the Israelites during the Exodus. Soon after the people had experienced their miraculous deliverance from slavery, they “grumbled against Moses and Aaron” (Exodus 16:2). They even said, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!” (v. 3). God hated their murmuring. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he alludes to that generation of Israelites: “Do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel” (1 Corinthians 10:10).
We’re all prone to complain; it’s the norm in this world. That’s why doing things “without grumbling or arguing” (Philippians 2:14) will set us apart in this world. When we live our lives in grateful obedience to God, we will shine “like stars in the sky” (v. 15). Our quiet and humble service will stand in stark contrast to the dissatisfied world around us. Living a quiet and peaceable life of gratitude is the real countercultural movement.
Do people avoid us because we’re always complaining? Or are they drawn to Christ because they sense His Spirit working in us to give us a grateful heart?

Friday, October 5, 2018

Better Than Ever - Our Daily Bread Ministries daily devotion 5 October Friday

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:12
The story is told of a group of salmon fishermen who gathered in a Scottish inn after a long day of fishing. As one was describing a catch to his friends, his arm swept across the table and knocked a glass against the wall, shattering it and leaving a stain on the white plaster surface. The man apologized to the innkeeper and offered to pay for the damage, but there was nothing he could do; the wall was ruined. A man seated nearby said, “Don’t worry.” Rising, he took a painting implement from his pocket and began to sketch around the ugly stain. Slowly there emerged the head of a magnificent stag. The man was Sir E. H. Landseer, Scotland’s foremost animal artist.
David, Israel’s illustrious king who penned Psalm 51, brought shame on himself and his nation by his sins. He committed adultery with the wife of one of his friends and engineered the death of that friend—both deeds worthy of death. It would seem his life was ruined. But he pled with God: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (v. 12).
Like David we have shameful acts in our past and the memories that accompany them, recollections that taunt us in the middle of the night. There’s so much we wish we could undo or redo.
There is a grace that not only forgives sin but also uses it to make us better than before. God wastes nothing.
Lord, I’ve failed You again. Please forgive me again. Change me. Turn me around. Teach me to follow Your ways.
God has both an all-seeing eye and all-forgiving heart.
By David H. Roper | See Other Authors

INSIGHT

David wrote Psalm 51 in repentance for his sin of adultery with Bathsheba; his deliberate actions that led to the death of her husband, Uriah; and ultimately his sin against God (v. 4). Psalm 32, also penned by David, is similar in that here too he writes from his own experience on the pain of unconfessed sin and of the blessing of repentance. Even as Christians we will sin—and sometimes again and again. At such times, if we stubbornly refuse to confess our sins, we feel the effects of the sin eating away at us spiritually, mentally, and physically (vv. 3–4). Why? Not because we’ve lost our salvation, but because we’ve driven a wedge between us and our holy God. When we come to God in sorrow for our sins and receive His forgiveness, the “joy of [our] salvation”—the joy of being in an intimate relationship with God—is restored (51:12; see 32:1–2). In both psalms, David illustrates that confession and repentance lead to God’s forgiveness, which leads to a restored relationship, which leads to great joy—and enables us to sing! (32:11).
When have you experienced restored joy after confession?

The Prayer and the Chain Saw - Our Daily Bread Ministries daily devotion 17 October Wednesday

Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant.  Nehemiah 1:11 I respect my Aunt Gladys’s intrepid spirit, even ...