• Biblical Studies

    Outside the Camp

    Friday was market day in the rural town in Ghana where I grew up. After all these years, I still recall one particular vendor. Her fingers and toes eroded by Hansen’s disease (leprosy), she would crouch on her mat and scoop her produce with a hollowed-out gourd. Some avoided her. My mother made it a point to buy from her regularly. I saw her only on market days. Then she would disappear outside the town.

    In the time of the ancient Israelites, diseases like leprosy meant living “outside the camp.” It was a forlorn existence. Israelite law said of such people,…

    Remember and Celebrate

    On December 6, 1907, explosions rocked a small community in the US state of West Virginia, producing one of the worst disasters in the history of the coal mining industry. Some 360 miners were killed, and it’s been estimated that this horrific tragedy left behind about 250 widows and one thousand children without fathers. Historians maintain that the memorial service became the seedbed from which the celebration of Father’s Day in the US would eventually grow. Out of great loss came remembrance and—eventually—celebration.

    The greatest tragedy in human history occurred when human beings crucified their Creator. Yet, that dark moment also…

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    Christian Beliefs

    The Forecaster’s Mistake

    In 1854, a young Russian artillery officer viewed the battlefield carnage occurring far below his cannon’s hilltop placement. “It’s a funny sort of pleasure,” Leo Tolstoy wrote, “to see people killing each other. And yet, every morning and every evening, I would . . . spend hours at a time watching.”

    Tolstoy’s outlook soon changed. After seeing firsthand the devastation and suffering in the city of Sevastopol, he wrote, “You understand all at once, and quite differently from what you have before, the significance of those sounds of shots which you heard in the city.”

    The prophet Jonah once climbed a hill…

    In the End

    I’m often given the privilege of leading spiritual retreats. Getting away for a few days to pray and reflect can be deeply enriching, and during the program I sometimes ask participants to do an exercise: “Imagine your life is over and your obituary is published in the paper. What would you like it to say?” Some attendees change their life’s priorities as a result, aiming to finish their lives well.

    Second Timothy 4 contains the last known written words of the apostle Paul. Though probably only in his sixties, and though having faced death before, he senses his life is nearly…

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    Christian Living

    The Forecaster’s Mistake

    In 1854, a young Russian artillery officer viewed the battlefield carnage occurring far below his cannon’s hilltop placement. “It’s a funny sort of pleasure,” Leo Tolstoy wrote, “to see people killing each other. And yet, every morning and every evening, I would . . . spend hours at a time watching.”

    Tolstoy’s outlook soon changed. After seeing firsthand the devastation and suffering in the city of Sevastopol, he wrote, “You understand all at once, and quite differently from what you have before, the significance of those sounds of shots which you heard in the city.”

    The prophet Jonah once climbed a hill…

    Turn Up the Heat

    Temperatures where we live in Colorado can change quickly—sometimes within a few minutes. So my husband, Dan, was curious about the temperature differences in and around our home. As a fan of gadgets, he was excited to unpack his latest “toy”—a thermometer showing temperature readings from four “zones” around our house. Joking that it was a “silly” gadget, I was surprised to find myself frequently checking the temperatures, too. The differences inside and out fascinated me.

    Jesus used temperature to describe the “lukewarm” church in Laodicea, one of the richest of the seven cities cited in the book of Revelation. A…

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    Christian Ministry & the Church

    Something Deep and Binding

    Amina, an Iraqi immigrant, and Joseph, an American from birth, attended a political protest on opposite sides. We’ve been taught to believe that those who are separated by ethnicity and politics carry unbridled animosity toward each other. However, when a small mob accosted Joseph, trying to set his shirt on fire, Amina rushed to his defense. “I don’t think we could be any further apart as people,” Joseph told a reporter, “and yet, it was just kinda like this common ‘that’s not OK’ moment.” Something deeper than politics knit Amina and Joseph together.

    Though we often have genuine disagreements with one…

    Wise Counsel

    While attending seminary, I was working full-time. Add to that a chaplaincy rotation and an internship at a church. I was busy. When my father visited me, he said, “You’re going to have a breakdown.” I shrugged off his warning thinking he was of another generation, and he didn’t understand goal-setting.

    I didn’t have a breakdown. But I did experience a very rough, dry season in which I fell into depression. Since then, I’ve learned to listen to warnings—especially from loved ones—more carefully.

    That’s what Moses did. He was diligently working, serving as Israel’s judge (Exodus 18:13). Yet, he chose to listen…

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    Christianity & Culture

    Spiritual Diagnosis

    Chemotherapy reduced the tumor in my father-in-law’s pancreas, until it didn’t. As the tumor began to grow again, he was left with a life-and-death decision. He asked his doctor, “Should I take more of this chemo or try something else, perhaps a different drug or radiation?” 

    The people of Judah had a similar life-and-death question. Weary from war and famine, God’s people wondered whether their problem was too much idolatry or not enough. They concluded they should offer more sacrifices to a false god and see if she would protect and prosper them (Jeremiah 44:17).

    Jeremiah said they had wildly misdiagnosed their…

    Real Hospitality

    “Kumain ka na ba?” (Have you eaten?)

    This is what you’ll always hear as a visitor in many homes in the Philippines, where I’m from. It’s the Filipino way of expressing care and kindness for our guests. And regardless of your reply, your host will always prepare something for you to eat. Filipinos believe that true kindness isn’t just saying the standard greeting, but also going beyond words to show real hospitality.

    Rebekah, too, knew all about being kind. Her daily chores included drawing water from the well outside town and carrying the heavy jar of water home. When Abraham’s servant, who…

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    Ethical Issues

    A Life of Integrity

    Abel Mutai, a Kenyan runner competing in a grueling international cross-country race, was mere yards from victory—his lead secure. Confused by the course’s signage and thinking he’d already crossed the finish line, however, Mutai stopped short. The Spanish runner in second place, Ivan Fernandez Anaya, saw Mutai’s mistake. Rather than take advantage and bolt past for the win, however, he caught up to Mutai, put out his arm and guided Mutai forward to a gold-medal win. When reporters asked Anaya why he purposefully lost the race, he insisted that Mutai deserved the win, not him. “What would be the merit…

    Justice and Jesus

    Caesar Augustus (63 BC–AD 14), the first emperor of Rome, wanted to be known as a law-and-order ruler. Even though he built his empire on the back of slave labor, military conquest, and financial bribery, he restored a measure of legal due process and gave his citizens Iustitia, a goddess our justice system today refers to as Lady Justice. He also called for a census that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for the birth of a long-awaited ruler whose greatness would reach to the ends of the earth (Micah 5:2–4).   

    What neither Augustus nor the rest of the world could…

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    Evangelism & Missions

    Generous Giving

    General Charles Gordon (1833–85) served Queen Victoria in China and elsewhere, but when living in England he’d give away 90 percent of his income. When he heard about a famine in Lancashire, he scratched off the inscription from a pure gold medal he’d received from a world leader and sent it up north, saying they should melt it down and use the money to buy bread for the poor. That day he wrote in his diary: “The last earthly thing I had in this world that I valued I have given to the Lord Jesus.”

    General Gordon’s level of generosity might…

    A Heart for Service

    A ministry in Carlsbad, New Mexico, supports their community by offering more than 24,000 pounds of free food each month to local residents. The leader of the ministry shared, “People can come here, and we will accept them and meet them right where they are. Our goal is . . . to meet their practical needs to get to their spiritual needs.” As believers in Christ, God desires for us to use what we’ve been given to bless others, drawing our communities closer to Him. How can we develop a heart for service that brings glory to God?

    We develop a…

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    father's Day

    Life Struggles

    Growing in Faith

    At the beginning of my gardening journey, I’d wake up early and run to my vegetable garden to see if anything had sprouted. Nothing. After an internet search for “fast garden growth,” I learned that the seedling stage is the most important phase of a plant’s lifespan. Knowing now that this process couldn’t be rushed, I came to appreciate the strength of small sprouts fighting their way through the soil toward the sun and their resilience to temperamental weather. After waiting patiently for a few weeks, I was finally greeted by bursts of green sprouts creeping through the soil.

    Sometimes it’s…

    Pulled to Safety

    A little girl waded in a shallow creek while her father watched. Her rubber boots reached her knees. As she sloshed downstream, the water deepened until it flowed over the top of her waders. When she couldn’t take another step, she yelled, “Daddy, I’m stuck!” In three strides, her father was at her side, pulling her to the grassy bank. She yanked her boots off and laughed as water poured onto the ground.

    After God rescued the psalmist David from his enemies, he took a moment to sit down, “pull off his boots,” and allow the relief to flood his soul.…

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    Marriage & Family

    Complete in Christ

    In a popular film, an actor plays a success-driven sports agent whose marriage begins to crumble. Attempting to win his wife, Dorothy, back, he looks into her eyes and says, “You complete me.” It’s a heart-warming message that echoes a tale in Greek philosophy. According to that myth, each of us is a “half” that must find our “other half” to become whole.

    The belief that a romantic partner “completes” us is now part of popular culture. But is it true? I talk to many married couples who still feel incomplete because they haven’t been able to have children, and others…

    God’s Love Is Stronger

    In 2020, Alyssa Mendoza received a surprising email from her father in the middle of the night. The message had instructions about what to do for her mother on her parents’ twenty-fifth anniversary. Why was this shocking? Alyssa’s father had passed away ten months earlier. She discovered that he had written and scheduled the email while he was sick, knowing he might not be there. He’d also arranged and paid for flowers to be sent to his wife for upcoming years on her birthday, future anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day.

    This story could stand as an example of the kind of love…

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    Mother's Day

    Relationships

    Run Away

    The introductory lesson on aikido, a traditional Japanese form of martial arts, was an eye-opener. The sensei, or teacher, told us that when faced with an attacker, our first response should be to “run away.” “Only if you can’t run away, then you fight,” he said seriously.

    Run away? I was taken aback. Why was this highly-skilled self-defense instructor telling us to run away from a fight? It seemed counterintuitive—until he explained that the best form of self-defense is to avoid fighting in the first place. Of course!

    When several men came to arrest Jesus, Peter responded as some of us might have by drawing…

    Uncommon Courage

    In 1478, Lorenzo de Medici, the ruler of Florence, Italy, escaped an attack on his life. His countrymen sparked a war when they tried to retaliate for the attack on their leader. As the situation worsened, the cruel King Ferrante I of Naples became Lorenzo’s enemy, but a courageous act by Lorenzo changed everything. He visited the king unarmed and alone. This bravery, paired with his charm and brilliance, won Ferrante’s admiration and ended the war. 

    Daniel also helped a king experience a change of heart. No one in Babylon could describe or interpret a troubling dream King Nebuchadnezzar had. This…

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    Spiritual Growth

    Turn Up the Heat

    Temperatures where we live in Colorado can change quickly—sometimes within a few minutes. So my husband, Dan, was curious about the temperature differences in and around our home. As a fan of gadgets, he was excited to unpack his latest “toy”—a thermometer showing temperature readings from four “zones” around our house. Joking that it was a “silly” gadget, I was surprised to find myself frequently checking the temperatures, too. The differences inside and out fascinated me.

    Jesus used temperature to describe the “lukewarm” church in Laodicea, one of the richest of the seven cities cited in the book of Revelation. A…

    Run Away

    The introductory lesson on aikido, a traditional Japanese form of martial arts, was an eye-opener. The sensei, or teacher, told us that when faced with an attacker, our first response should be to “run away.” “Only if you can’t run away, then you fight,” he said seriously.

    Run away? I was taken aback. Why was this highly-skilled self-defense instructor telling us to run away from a fight? It seemed counterintuitive—until he explained that the best form of self-defense is to avoid fighting in the first place. Of course!

    When several men came to arrest Jesus, Peter responded as some of us might have by drawing…

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    When Life Hurts

    Pulled to Safety

    A little girl waded in a shallow creek while her father watched. Her rubber boots reached her knees. As she sloshed downstream, the water deepened until it flowed over the top of her waders. When she couldn’t take another step, she yelled, “Daddy, I’m stuck!” In three strides, her father was at her side, pulling her to the grassy bank. She yanked her boots off and laughed as water poured onto the ground.

    After God rescued the psalmist David from his enemies, he took a moment to sit down, “pull off his boots,” and allow the relief to flood his soul.…

    Not So

    Today’s Our Daily Bread Devotional

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