Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.—Luke 23:34
discoveryseries.org/hp071. < Key this link for more on forgiveness.
INSIGHT: In the first century, the common attire for a Jewish man included five pieces of clothing—shoes, turban, belt, loincloth, and outer tunic. After crucifying Jesus, the soldiers divided the Savior’s garments as their spoils for performing the task. After each took a portion of clothing, one remained—the tunic. This infers that even the loincloth was taken—and Jesus’s last shred of human dignity with it. In a heartbreaking fulfillment of David’s messianic song, they stripped Jesus naked and then gambled for the tunic. In Psalm 22:17-18, where crucifixion was prophetically described some 600 years before it was invented, David said it would be so: “All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” The soldiers gambled for all they could get, unaware of the fact that mere feet away Christ was freely forgiving and giving all He had out of love for them. Bill Crowder ~ Our Daily Bread / Radio Bible Class
Our Daily Bread
Jesus’s teaching about absolute ideals and absolute grace seem contradictory.
Jesus never lowered God’s perfect ideal. In His response to the rich young ruler, He said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). He told an expert in the law who inquired as to the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (22:37). No one has completely fulfilled those commands.
Yet the same Jesus tenderly offered absolute grace. He forgave an adulteress, a thief on the cross, a disciple who had denied ever knowing Him, and a man named Saul, who had made his mark persecuting Christians. Grace is absolute and all-encompassing, extending even to those who nailed Jesus to the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” were among the last words He spoke on earth (Luke 23:34).
For years I felt so unworthy when considering Jesus’s absolute ideals that I missed any notion of His grace. Once I understood this dual message, however, I went back and found that the message of grace gusts through Jesus’s life and teachings.
Grace is for the desperate, the needy, the broken, those who cannot make it on their own. Grace is for all of us.
Father, Your all-encompassing grace washes over us and astonishes us. May we live today as people who enjoy Your complete forgiveness and a restored relationship with You.
Jesus fulfilled the perfect requirements of the law so that we may enjoy the perfect peace of His grace.
INSIGHT: The life of the apostle Paul is another example of God’s grace. Because of Paul’s past, he considered himself the most undeserving recipient of God’s mercy and grace (1 Tim. 1:13–14). Although he was chosen to be an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul also gave another reason he was chosen: “God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life” (v. 16 nlt). God had you and me in mind when He saved Paul—an awesome thought. If Paul, the worst of sinners, could be saved, then there is hope for everyone else. No one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy and grace.
Our trials, tribulations and suffering build us up. Who has not heard of the common story of the overly protected child who later has trouble functioning in school and everyday life? The devotional below reveals how trees placed in a protective space, collapsed under their own weight. Why? Because they were never exposed to the winds of adversity. They never had a chance to develop strong roots and a solid trunk! God grows us, and in order to grow us, He allows us to suffer and be tested. Without a Goliath in his life, the strength of David’s character would have been dormant and not seen by man. Goliath did not make David a heroic man of faith. Goliath simply revealed what was already in David. Trials do NOT make or break us, they reveal what is in us.
Following the devotionals from Our Daily Bread, the topic of suffering will be further expounded upon. In Christ, Pastor Steve
Growing in the Wind
Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him! Mark 4:41
Imagine a world without wind. Lakes would be calm. Falling leaves wouldn’t blow in the streets. But in still air, who would expect trees to suddenly fall over? That’s what happened in a three-acre glass dome built in the Arizona desert. Trees growing inside a huge windless bubble called Biosphere 2 grew faster than normal until suddenly collapsing under their own weight. Project researchers eventually came up with an explanation. These trees needed wind stress to grow strong.
Jesus let His disciples experience gale-force winds to strengthen their faith (Mark 4:36–41). During a night crossing of familiar waters, a sudden storm proved too much even for these seasoned fishermen. Wind and waves were swamping their boat while an exhausted Jesus slept in the stern. In a panic they woke Him. Didn’t it bother their Teacher that they were about to die? What was He thinking? Then they began to find out. Jesus told the wind and waves to be quiet—and asked His friends why they still had no faith in Him.
If the wind had not blown, these disciples would never have asked, “Who is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41).
Today, life in a protective bubble might sound good. But how strong would our faith be if we couldn’t discover for ourselves His reassuring “be still” when the winds of circumstance howl?
Father in heaven, please help us to remember that anything that frightens us comes with an invitation to find the strength of knowing and trusting You.
God never sleeps.
INSIGHT:In Mark 4:35–5:43 the gospel writer tells of four miracles to prove that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of God” and therefore has absolute authority over the forces of this physical world (4:35–41), over the powers of the spiritual world (5:1–20), over physical illnesses (5:24–34), and over death (5:35–43). These miracles were designed to answer the question, “Who is this?” (4:41). The first miracle was Jesus calming the storm on Galilee. Because the Sea of Galilee is in a basin about 700 feet below sea level and is surrounded by mountains, sudden and violent storms are common (v. 37). That Jesus was tired and soundly asleep showed that He was fully human (v. 38); that the storm instantly obeyed Him showed He was divine (v. 39).
Our Daily Bread Topics: Christian Living Suffering & Tragedy Trust in God
Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.—Matthew 10:39
When I married my English fiancé and moved to the United Kingdom, I thought it would be a five-year adventure in a foreign land. I never dreamed I’d still be living here nearly twenty years later, or that at times I’d feel like I was losing my life as I said goodbye to family and friends, work, and all that was familiar. But in losing my old way of life, I’ve found a better one.
The upside-down gift of finding life when we lose it is what Jesus promised to His apostles. When He sent out the twelve disciples to share His good news, He asked them to love Him more than their mothers or fathers, sons or daughters (Matt. 10:37). His words came in a culture where families were the cornerstone of the society and highly valued. But He promised that if they would lose their life for His sake, they would find it (v. 39).
We don’t have to move abroad to find ourselves in Christ. Through service and commitment—such as the disciples going out to share the good news of the kingdom of God—we find ourselves receiving more than we give through the lavish love the Lord showers on us. Of course He loves us no matter how much we serve, but we find contentment, meaning, and fulfillment when we pour ourselves out for the well-being of others. —Amy Boucher Pye
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. Isaac Watts
Every loss leaves a space that can be filled with God’s presence.
INSIGHT: When we choose to follow Christ, we won’t necessarily be popular. Our highest calling is not self-promotion or self-preservation. A hero jumps into deep water to save someone who is drowning, but that same person could well lose his or her life (to quote Jesus) in the process of seeking to save someone else. Jesus indicated that even family members (normally our closest natural connection) may be squared off against us. While others may become our obstinate opponents because of Christ, we are obligated to show unselfishness because of Him (Phil. 2:3-5). “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21). It’s a profound paradox. To lose our life for Him means to find it. Has there been a time when the choice to follow Christ has cost you? Jim Townsend
This is the first entry of a series with the theme of suffering. Today’s posting features three different devotionals on this topic, that I have read in the last couple of days! That indicates how relevant this subject is. The Bible is an oxymoron to the world, never making sense to the lost because “His ways are not our ways.” The Bible tells us (the Apostle Paul) that “…when I am weak, then I am strong.” The Bible tells us that “the Lord uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” The Bible also contains the theme throughout, that God blesses and works through suffering – Jesus’ death on the cross being the greatest example. I have found that this fascinating subject is readily received by born again Christians, yet eschewed by nominal Christians and worldlings. The fact is, they have absolutely no comprehension of this topic. Speaking for myself, my greatest growth has come under the crucible of testing, trials and tribulations. In order to make us into His image, the Lord must break us from our sinful fallen nature and fleshly desires. This is a lifelong process that never ends. Suffering is the hallmark of the mature saint – there are no shortcuts to heaven.
Blessings, Pastor Steve
January 11, 2017 Our Daily Bread Devotional
We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
My wife makes an amazing pot roast dinner. She takes raw meat, along with raw sliced white and sweet potatoes, celery, mushrooms, carrots, and onions and throws them into the slow cooker. Six or seven hours later the aroma fills the house, and the first taste is a delight. It is always to my advantage to wait until the ingredients in the slow cooker work together to achieve something they could not achieve individually.
When Paul used the phrase “work together” in the context of suffering, he used the word from which we get our word synergy. He wrote, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). He wanted the Romans to know that God, who didn’t cause their suffering, would cause all their circumstances to cooperate with His divine plan—for their ultimate good. The good to which Paul referred was not the temporal blessings of health, wealth, admiration, or success, but being “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son” (v. 29).
May we wait patiently and confidently because our heavenly Father is taking all the suffering, all the distress, all the evil, and causing them to work together for His glory and our spiritual good. He wants to make us like Jesus.
Read 2 Corinthians 12:9, Philippians 1:6, and 1 Peter 5:10. What encouragement did you find for tough times?
The growth we gain from waiting on God is often greater than the answer or result we desire.
INSIGHT:“All things” (Rom. 8:28) is a phrase that treats the seemingly good and bad events of life as a whole. The idea is that there is a dynamic interaction between the good and bad to bring a desired outcome, though this positive outcome may not yet be visible. If we consider a young man nailed to a cross dying in agony, we might wonder if anything good could be found there. But if we understand that this is Jesus Christ atoning for the sins of those who love Him, we can see how even this terrible event worked together for good. God works for “the good” of those who are true believers in Jesus Christ. They demonstrate the authenticity of their faith because they respond back with love to the One who first loved them (1 John 4:19).
Our Source of Provision
January 7, 2017
The Lord is near to all who call on him.—Psalm 145:18
In August 2010, the attention of the world was focused on a mine shaft near Copiapó, Chile. Thirty-three miners huddled in the dark, trapped 2,300 feet underground. They had no idea if help would ever arrive. After seventeen days of waiting, they heard drilling. Rescuers produced a small hole in the mine shaft ceiling, and that hole was followed by three more, establishing a delivery path for water, food, and medicine. The miners depended on those conduits to the surface above ground, where rescuers had the provisions they would need to survive. On day sixty-nine, rescuers pulled the last miner to safety.
None of us can survive in this world apart from provisions that are outside of ourselves. God, the Creator of the universe, is the one who provides us with everything we need. Like the drill holes for those miners, prayer connects us to the God of all supply.
Jesus encouraged us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). In His day, bread was the basic staple of life and pictured all the daily needs of the people. Jesus was teaching us to pray not only for our physical needs but also for everything we need—comfort, healing, courage, wisdom.
Through prayer we have access to Him at any moment, and He knows what we need before we even ask (v. 8). What might you be struggling with today? “The Lord is near to all who call on him” (Ps. 145:18). —Bill Crowder
To learn more about prayer, read Let’s Pray at discoveryseries.org/hp135.
INSIGHT: Notice the basic themes Jesus teaches us to address when we pray. The prayer begins with worship on several different levels. First, we celebrate our relationship with our Creator that allows us to call Him “our Father.” His exalted nature is brought to mind as we remember that He is in heaven and bears a holy name. When we understand His character and wisdom, it should drive us to long for His purposes and rule to be realized here on earth, in the same way it is in heaven. We are then challenged to look to Him for all our needs. His daily, faithful provision is a source of great comfort and assurance for the child of God. Bill Crowder
Locked Into Love
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 106:1
In June 2015, the city of Paris removed forty-five tons of padlocks from the railings of the Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge. As a romantic gesture, couples would etch their initials onto a lock, attach it to the railing, click it shut, and throw the key into the River Seine.
After this ritual was repeated thousands of times, the bridge could no longer bear the weight of so much “love.” Eventually the city, fearing for the integrity of the bridge, removed the “love locks.”
The locks were meant to symbolize everlasting love, but human love does not always last. The closest of friends may offend each other and never resolve their differences. Family members may argue and refuse to forgive. A husband and wife may drift so far apart that they can’t remember why they once decided to marry. Human love can be fickle.
But there is one constant and enduring love—the love of God. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever,” proclaims Psalm 106:1. The promises of the unfailing and everlasting nature of God’s love are found throughout Scripture. And the greatest proof of this love is the death of His Son so that those who put their faith in Him can live eternally. And nothing will ever separate us from His love (Rom. 8:38–39).
Fellow believers, we are locked into God’s love forever.
I’m grateful for Your unending love, Father. I’m locked into Your love by the Holy Spirit who is living in me.
Christ’s death and resurrection are the measure of God’s love for me.
INSIGHT:Christ’s work on the cross to secure our salvation has been completed. With a triumphant proclamation, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus returned to the Father. Now seated at God’s right hand, the exalted Christ continues His redemptive and sanctifying work as our eternal High Priest (Heb. 4:14–16). He is our “Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1–2; 1 Tim. 2:5), always defending and interceding for us (Heb. 7:24–25; 9:24). Paul confidently writes, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). No one can successfully bring a charge of condemnation against those who are in Christ (vv. 33–34).
September 21, 2016
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.—James 1:2
Fire can be one of the worst enemies of trees. But it can also be helpful. Experts say that small, frequent fires called “cool” fires clean the forest floor of dead leaves and branches but don’t destroy the trees. They leave behind ashes, which are perfect for seeds to grow in. Surprisingly, low-intensity fires are necessary for healthy growth of trees.
Similarly, trials—pictured as fire in the Bible—are necessary for our spiritual health and growth (1 Peter 1:7; 4:12). James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
It is in the season of trial that God’s purposes are often realized, for there the conditions are right for us to grow into spiritual maturity. This growth not only equips us for living, but it also enables us to more accurately reflect Jesus to a world that desperately needs Him.
In the hands of our Father, our trials can achieve His purposes for our good and for His honor. They can shape us into the likeness of His Son. —Bill Crowder
Father, teach me to trust You for the strength to endure difficulties and the faith to wait for Your good purposes to be accomplished in me.
Encourage others! Go to odb.org and share what God taught you through a challenging time.
INSIGHT: James, the half-brother of Jesus, believed that Christ was the Messiah after witnessing His resurrection from the dead. James led the early church as a “Messianic Jew,” a term referring to someone who has been reared in the traditions of Judaism and who acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah. In today’s reading, James says that a positive attitude toward trials—“consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trials of many kinds” (1:2)—is central to the Christian life. Trials are beneficial because they produce positive character change through the power of God.
August 2, 2016
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. —2 Timothy 4:7
Joop Zoetemelk is known as the Netherlands’ most successful cyclist. But that’s because he never gave up. He started and finished the Tour de France 16 times—placing second five times before winning in 1980. That’s perseverance!
Many winners have reached success by climbing a special ladder called “never give up.” However, there are also many who have lost the opportunity to achieve success because they gave up too soon. This can happen in every area of life: family, education, friends, work, service. Perseverance is a key to victory.
The apostle Paul persevered despite persecution and affliction (2 Tim. 3:10-11). He viewed life with realism, recognizing that as followers of Christ we will suffer persecution (vv. 12-13), but he instructed Timothy to place his faith in God and the encouragement of the Scriptures (vv. 14-15). Doing so would help him face discouragement and endure with hope. At the end of his life, Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:7).
We too can allow the Scriptures to strengthen us to press on in the race marked out for us. For our God is both a promise-making and promise-keeping God and will reward those who faithfully finish the race (v. 8). —Jaime Fernández Garrido
Heavenly Father, give me strength of character and perseverance to serve you better. Help me not to get discouraged when things get tough but to rely on You to see me through.
INSIGHT: Paul experienced great persecution in the cities of Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. In Antioch, he faced aggressive opposition from the religious leaders (Acts 13:45; 15:1-2). In Iconium, Gentile and Jewish leaders conspired to have him killed (14:4-5). And in Lystra, he was stoned and left for dead (v. 19). Yet in his final letter to Timothy, Paul uses these three cities as examples of perseverance. He recounts these terribly painful events not to garner pity but to remind Timothy of God’s faithfulness during times of hardship and pain. Dennis Moles
Our Daily Bread — Everything We Need and More
July 9, 2016
[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life. —2 Peter 1:3
In a field on the English countryside, G. K. Chesterton stood up from where he had been sitting and exploded with laughter. His outburst was so sudden and so loud that the cows could not take their eyes off him.
Just minutes before, the Christian writer and apologist had been miserable. That afternoon he had been wandering the hills, sketching pictures on brown paper using colored chalks. But he was dismayed to discover he had no white chalk, which he considered to be essential to his artwork. Soon, though, he began to laugh when he realized that the ground beneath him was porous limestone—the earth’s equivalent of white chalk. He broke off a piece and resumed drawing.
Like Chesterton, who realized he “was sitting on an immense warehouse of white chalk,” believers have God’s unlimited spiritual resources within reach at all times. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him” (2 Peter 1:3).
Maybe you feel you are lacking some important element necessary for godliness such as faith, grace, or wisdom. If you know Christ, you have everything you need and more. Through Jesus, you have access to the Father—the one who graciously provides believers with all things. —Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Dear Lord, forgive me for overlooking Your power and trying to live in my own strength. I can’t do it. Thank You for providing everything I need.
God has unlimited power.
INSIGHT:Today’s passage reminds us that it is God who provides the power we need to live the Christian life (v. 3). One of the ways He does this is by giving us the Holy Spirit. The characteristics we display—the fruit of the indwelling Spirit—have strong implications for the way we live (vv. 5–9; see Gal. 5:22–23). But whose fruit is it? It is the Spirit’s. The Holy Spirit is the agent, the source, and the power that produces that fruit.
Adapted from Live Free: A Fresh Look at the Fruit of the Spirit.