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    Really Alive

    Today’s Our Daily Bread Devotional

    Not So

    Today’s Our Daily Bread Devotional

    His Cross of Peace

    Somber eyes peer out from the painting Simon of Cyrene, by contemporary Dutch artist Egbert Modderman (Mark 15:21). Simon was pulled from the watching crowd and forced to help Jesus carry His cross. In the painting, Simon’s eyes reveal the immense physical and emotional burden of this responsibility.

    Mark tells us that Simon was from Cyrene, a big city in North Africa that had a large population of Jews during Jesus’ time. Most likely Simon had journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Then he found himself in the middle of this unjust execution, but was able to perform a small…

    “And It Was Night”

    Eli Wiesel’s novel Night starkly confronts us with the horrors of the Holocaust. Based on his own experiences in Nazi death camps, Wiesel’s account flips the biblical story of the Exodus. While Moses and the Israelites escaped slavery at the first Passover (Exodus 12), Wiesel tells of the SS arresting Jewish leaders following Passover.

    Lest we criticize Wiesel and his dark irony, consider that the Bible contains a similar plot twist. On the night of Passover, Jesus, expected to free God’s people from suffering, instead permits Himself to be arrested by those who would kill Him.

    John ushers us into the holy…

    Carried by Love

    My four-year-old grandson sat on my lap and patted my bald head, studying it intently. “Papa,” he asked, “What happened to your hair?” “Oh,” I laughed, “I lost it over the years.” His face turned thoughtful: “That’s too bad” he responded. “I’ll have to give you some of mine.”

    I smiled at his compassion and pulled him close for a hug. Reflecting later on his love for me in that cherished moment also caused me to ponder God’s selfless, generous love.

    G. K. Chesterton wrote: “We have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” By this he meant…

    Like Us, for Us

    Derek noticed his son didn’t want to take off his shirt to swim and realized it was because he was self-conscious about a birthmark that covers parts of his chest, belly, and left arm. Determined to help his son, Derek underwent a lengthy and painful tattooing process to create an identical mark on his own body.

    Derek’s love for his son reflects God’s love for His sons and daughters. Because we, His children, “have flesh and blood” (Hebrews 2:14), Jesus became like us and took on a human form and “shared in [our] humanity” to free us from the power of…

    Rising to Dance

    In a widely shared video, an elegant elderly woman sits in a wheelchair. Once a famed ballet dancer, Marta González Saldaña now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. But something magical happens when Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is played to her. As the music builds, her frail hands slowly rise, and as the first trumpets blast she starts performing from her chair. Though her mind and body are perishing, her talent is still there.

    Reflecting on that video, my thoughts went to Paul’s teaching on resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Likening our bodies to a seed that is buried before it sprouts into a plant,…

    Preparing a Place for Us

    Our family was planning to get a puppy, so my eleven-year-old daughter researched for months. She knew what the dog should eat and how to introduce it to our new home—among myriad other details.    

    Turns out puppies do best, she told me, if they’re introduced to one room at a time. So we carefully prepared a spare bedroom. I’m sure there will still be surprises as we raise our new puppy, but my daughter’s delight-infused preparation couldn’t have been more thorough.

    The way my daughter channeled her eager anticipation for a puppy into loving preparation reminded me of Christ’s longing to…

    With Us in the Valley

    As Hannah Wilberforce (aunt of British abolitionist William Wilberforce) lay dying, she wrote a letter in which she mentioned hearing about the death of a fellow believer in Jesus: “Happy is the dear man who is gone to glory, now in the presence of Jesus, whom unseen he loved. My heart seemed to jump for joy.” Then she described her own situation: “Myself, better and worse; Jesus, as good as ever.”

    Her words make me think of Psalm 23, where David writes, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley [the valley of the shadow of death], I will fear no…

    The Dwindles

    It started with a tickle in my throat. Uh oh, I thought. That tickle turned out to be influenza. And that was just the beginning of bronchial affliction. Influenza morphed into whooping cough—yes, that whooping cough—and that turned into pneumonia.

    Eight weeks of torso-wracking coughing—it’s not called whooping cough for nothing—has left me humbled. I don’t think of myself as old. But I’m old enough to start thinking about heading that direction. A member of my church’s small group has a funny name for the health issues that assail us as we age: “the dwindles.” But there’s nothing funny about dwindling’s work “in action.”   

    In…

    A Great Act of Love

    In Oregon’s Malheur National Forest, a fungus popularly known as the honey mushroom spreads through tree roots across 2,200 acres, making it the largest living organism ever found. It’s been “weaving its black shoestring filaments” through the forest for more than two millennia, killing trees as it grows. Its shoestring filaments, called “rhizomorphs,” tunnel as deep as ten feet into the soil. And although the organism is incredibly large, it began with a single microscopic spore!

    The Bible tells us of a single act of disobedience that caused widespread condemnation, and a single act of obedience that reversed it. The apostle…

    Water Where We Need It

    Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake, is vast and magnificent. Measuring one mile deep and nearly 400 miles (636 km) by 49 miles (79 km) across, it contains one-fifth of all the surface fresh water in the world. But this water is largely inaccessible. Lake Baikal is located in Siberia—one of the most remote areas of Russia. With water so desperately needed in much of our planet, it’s ironic that such a vast supply of water is tucked away in a place where not many people can access it.

    Although Lake Baikal may be remote, there is an endless source…

    Taken In

    My old dog sits by my side and stares off into space. A penny for her thoughts. One thing I know she isn’t thinking about is dying, because dogs don’t “understand.” They don’t think about future things. But we do. No matter our age or health or wealth, we at some point think about dying. That’s because we, unlike beasts, have “understanding,” according to Psalm 49:20. We know that we will die, and there’s nothing we can do about it. “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them” (v. 7). No one has…

    The Cost

    Michelangelo’s works explored many facets of the life of Jesus, yet one of the most poignant was also one of the most simple. In the 1540s he sketched a pieta (a picture of Jesus’ mother holding the body of the dead Christ) for his friend Vittoria Colonna. Done in chalk, the drawing depicts Mary looking to the heavens as she cradles her Son’s still form. Rising behind Mary, the upright beam of the cross carries these words from Dante’s Paradise, “There they don’t think of how much blood it costs.” Michelangelo’s point was profound: when we contemplate the death of…

    Slum Songs

    Cateura is a small slum in Paraguay, South America. Desperately poor, its villagers survive by recycling items from its rubbish dump. But from these unpromising conditions something beautiful has emerged—an orchestra.

    With a violin costing more than a house in Cateura, the orchestra had to get creative, crafting its own instruments from their garbage supply. Violins are made from oil cans with bent forks as tailpieces. Saxophones have come from drainpipes with bottle tops for keys. Cellos are made from tin drums with gnocchi rollers for tuning pegs. Hearing Mozart played on these contraptions is a beautiful thing. The orchestra has…