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Never Let Down

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

When I was a child, one of my favorite pastimes was playing on the teeter-totter in the nearby park. A kid would sit on each end of the board and bounce each other up and down. Sometimes the one who was down would stay there and leave his playmate stuck up in the air yelling to be let down. But the cruelest of all tricks was getting off the teeter-totter and running away when your friend was up in the air—he would come crashing down to the ground with a painful bump.

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Shout Hallelujah!

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

A few days ago, I spied my old friend Bob vigorously pedaling a bike at our neighborhood gym and staring down at a blood pressure monitor on his finger.

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Acts Of Kindness

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

I was traveling with some men when we spotted a family stranded alongside the road. My friends immediately pulled over to help. They got the car running, talked with the father and mother of the family, and gave them some money for gasoline. When the mother thanked them over and over, they replied, “We’re glad to help out, and we do it in Jesus’ name.” As we drove away, I thought how natural it was for these friends to help people in need and acknowledge the Lord as the source of their generosity.

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Victory Over Death!

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

An ancient painting I saw recently made a deep impression on me. Its title, Anastasis, means “resurrection,” and it depicts the triumph of Christ’s victory over death in a stunning way. The Lord Jesus, newly emerged from the tomb, is pulling Adam and Eve out of their coffins to eternal life. What is so amazing about this artwork is the way it shows how spiritual and physical death, the result of the fall, were dramatically reversed by the risen Christ.

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Easter Every Day

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

A friend of mine, who is a preschool teacher, overheard an animated conversation among her students. Little Maria threw out the question: “Who loves God?” All of them responded, “I do! I do! I do!” Billy said, “I love Jesus.” Kelly protested, “But He died.” Billy said, “Yeah, but every Easter He rises from the dead!”

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I’m Alive

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

Laura Brooks, a 52-year-old mother of two, didn’t know it but she was one of 14,000 people in 2011 whose name was incorrectly entered into the government database as dead. She wondered what was wrong when she stopped receiving disability checks, and her loan payments and her rent checks bounced. She went to the bank to clear up the issue, but the representative told her that her accounts had been closed because she was dead! Obviously, they were mistaken.

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Joining The Family

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

Maurice Griffin was adopted when he was 32 years old. He had lived with Lisa and Charles Godbold 20 years earlier as a foster child. Although Maurice was now a man living on his own, adoption had been what the family and he had always longed for. Once they were reunited and the adoption was official, Maurice commented, “This is probably the happiest moment in my life. . . . I’m happy to be home.”

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Mistaken Identity

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

My youngest brother, Scott, was born when I was a senior in high school. This age difference made for an interesting situation when he grew to college age. On his first trip to his college campus, I went along with him and our mom. When we arrived, people thought we were Scott Crowder and his dad and his grandmom. Eventually, we gave up correcting them. No matter what we said or did, our actual relationships were overridden by this humorous case of mistaken identity.

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Determination

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

During a television news report on the plight of refugees displaced from a war-torn country, I was struck by the words of a 10-year-old girl. Despite there being little possibility of returning to their home, she showed a resilient spirit: “When we go back, I’m going to visit my neighbors; I’m going to play with my friends,” she said with quiet determination. “My father says we don’t have a house. And I said we are going to fix it.”

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New Beginnings

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

New beginnings are possible. Just ask Brayan, a young man who joined a gang in elementary school. Brayan ran away when he was 12 years old, and for 3 years was lost in gang and drug life. Although he left the gang and returned home, it was difficult for him, as he had been expelled from school for selling drugs. When he enrolled in a new high school, however, a teacher inspired and encouraged him to write about his experiences rather than repeat them. He embraced the challenge and is now experiencing a fresh start.

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“Isn’t God Powerful!”

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

One day, my 3-year-old granddaughter Katie surprised her mom and dad with a bit of theological expertise. She said to them, “You both had sisters who died. Then God took them up to heaven to be with Him. Isn’t God powerful!”

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Left Side Of The Road

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

Growing up in the US, I always thought it interesting that in some countries motorists drive on the left side of the road instead of the right. Then, when I was in England, I heard a London tour guide explain one possible reason for this law: “In the 1800s, pedestrians as well as horse-and-carriages used the same roads. When a carriage was on the right side of the road, a driver’s horse whip would sometimes hit a passerby. To remove this hazard, a law was passed requiring all carriages to travel on the left side of the road so the pedestrians could be kept safe.”

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Loved To Love

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life was at risk every day he stayed in Hitler’s Germany, but he stayed nonetheless. I imagine he shared the apostle Paul’s view that being in heaven was his heart’s desire, but staying where he was needed was God’s present purpose (Phil. 1:21). So stay he did; as a pastor he offered clandestine worship services and resisted the evil regime under Hitler.

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Choose Life

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

What is God’s will for my life? The question haunted me when I was growing up. What if I couldn’t find it? What if I didn’t recognize it? God’s will seemed like a needle in a haystack. Hidden. Obscured by lookalikes. Outnumbered by counterfeits.

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Check The Oil

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

When I helped our daughters learn to drive, I included a little instruction on basic auto maintenance. We visited a local service station where they learned to check the oil every time they put fuel in the car. Today, years later, they often remind me of my six-word slogan, “Oil is cheap; engines are expensive.” Adding a quart of oil is nothing compared to replacing an engine.

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What’s In A Name?

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

My friend wrote a letter to his newborn child that he wanted him to read when he was older: “My dear boy, Daddy and Mummy wish that you will find and stay focused on the Light. Your Chinese name is xin xuan. Xin means faithfulness, contentment, and integrity; xuan stands for warmth and light.” He and his wife carefully chose a name based on their hopes for their baby boy.

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Bottled Water Binge

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

Here in the United States, we’ve been on a bottled water binge for a number of years. Even though most people have a safe supply of water that is free and readily available from faucets and drinking fountains, they still purchase bottled water. Choosing to pay for something that I can enjoy at no cost doesn’t make sense to me, but some people believe that a product they pay for is superior to anything they receive free.

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Blessed Are The Meek

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

One problem with the English word meek is that it rhymes with weak, and people have linked the two words together for years. A popular dictionary offers a secondary definition of meek as “too submissive; easily imposed on; spineless; spiritless.” This causes some people to question why Jesus would say, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

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A Better World

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

In one of my favorite Peanuts cartoons featuring Charlie Brown, the always confident Lucy declares, “How could the world be getting worse with me in it? Ever since I was born the world has shown a distinct improvement!”

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Waiting . . .

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

Day after day for years Harry shared with the Lord his concern for his son-in-law John who had turned away from God. But then Harry died. A few months later, John turned back to God. When his mother-in-law Marsha told him that Harry had been praying for him every day, John replied, “I waited too long.” But Marsha joyfully shared: “The Lord is still answering the prayers Harry prayed during his earthly life.”

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The Link To Life

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

By the time he was 16, Morris Frank (1908–1980) had lost his sight in both eyes. Several years later, he traveled to Switzerland where he met Buddy, the canine who would help to inspire Frank’s involvement with the Seeing Eye guide-dog school.

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Out Of Chaos

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

Everything I observe makes me believe this is true: Order is not natural. When I consider my office, I’m astounded at how quickly it descends into chaos and how long it takes me to restore order. Order requires intervention; it does not happen naturally.

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Who’s At The Center?

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

Recently, I had what for me was a “Copernican moment”: I am not at the center of the universe. The world doesn’t revolve around me. It doesn’t move at my pace, in my terms, nor in accord with my preferences.

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Gentle Witness

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

Years ago, I was hospitalized following a life-threatening, 38-foot fall from a bridge. While I was there, the wife of the man in the next bed stopped to speak to me. “My husband just told me what happened to you,” she said. “We believe God spared your life because He wants to use you. We’ve been praying for you.”

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Coming Soon!

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

A “COMING SOON!” announcement often precedes future events in entertainment and sports, or the launch of the latest technology. The goal is to create anticipation and excitement for what is going to happen, even though it may be months away.

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Misplaced Love

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

Martin Lindstrom, an author and speaker, thinks that cellphones have become akin to a best friend for many owners. Lindstrom’s experiment using an MRI helped him discover why. When the subjects saw or heard their phone ringing, their brains fired off neurons in the area associated with feelings of love and compassion. Lindstrom said, “It was as if they were in the presence of a girlfriend, boyfriend, or family member.”

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Heaven Rejoices!

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

Joann had been raised in a Christian home. But when she went to college, she began to question her beliefs and walked away from God. After graduation, she traveled to a number of countries, always looking for happiness but never feeling satisfied. While experiencing some difficulties, she recognized that God was pursuing her and that she needed Him.

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Sweet Fragrance

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

Some scents are unforgettable. Recently, my husband mentioned he was running low on shaving cream. “I’ll pick some up,” I offered. “Can you get this kind?” he asked, showing me the can. “I love the smell—it’s the kind my dad always used.” I smiled, recalling the time I had been momentarily taken back to my childhood when I got a whiff of the same shampoo my mom used to wash my hair. For both Tom and me, the fragrances had brought an emotional response and pleasant memory of people we loved who were no longer around.

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Perspective From The Clouds

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

In 1927 the silent film Wings, a World War I film about two American aviators, won the first Academy Award for Best Picture. When it was being filmed, production stopped for several days. Frustrated producers asked the director why. He responded: “All we have is blue sky. The conflict in the air will not be as visible without clouds. Clouds bring perspective.” He was right. Only by seeing aerial combat with clouds as a backdrop could the viewer see what was really going on.

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Heart Food

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

I love food! I love to see it beautifully presented, and I love to savor the taste. If it were up to me, I would eat more often than I should—although it wouldn’t help my waistline! So, it’s a good thing my wife, Martie, knows when to lovingly remind me to eat healthful foods in the right amount.

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Prone To Wander

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

One of my favorite classic hymns is “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” which was written in 1757 by 22-year-old Robert Robinson. In the hymn’s lyrics is a line that always captures my attention and forces me to do some self-evaluation. The line says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” I feel that way sometimes. Too often I find myself distracted and drifting, instead of having my heart and mind focused on the Savior who loves me and gave Himself for me. Robert Robinson and I are not alone in this.

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Without Power

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

In late October 2012, a hurricane-spawned superstorm struck the heavily populated northeastern US, leaving massive flooding and destruction in its wake. During the storm, more than 8 million customers lost electricity. Power outages alone caused shortages of food, fuel, and water, along with the chaos of gridlocked transportation. The howling winds and surging waters left many neighborhoods crushed, flooded, and choked with mountains of sand. Media coverage of the event reported: “Millions Without Power.”

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The Golden Rule

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

The concept of The Golden Rule—treat others as you would like to be treated—appears in many religions. So what makes Jesus’ version of the saying so exceptional?

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The Silent Pen

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

Former US President Harry Truman had a rule: Any letters written in anger had to sit on his desk for 24 hours before they could be mailed. If at the end of that “cooling off” period, he still felt the same sentiments, he would send the letter. By the end of his life, Truman’s unmailed letters filled a large desk drawer.

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Make It Personal

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

During my days as a teacher and coach at a Christian high school, I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with teenagers, trying to guide them to a purposeful, Christlike life—characterized by love for God and love for others. My goal was to prepare them to live for God throughout life. That would happen only as they made their faith a vital part of life through the help of the Holy Spirit. Those who didn’t follow Christ floundered after they left the influence of Christian teachers and parents.

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Dressed To Deceive

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

Hiking in the mountains of Utah, Coty Creighton spotted a goat that didn’t look like the rest of the herd. A closer look revealed that the unusual animal was actually a man dressed as a goat. When authorities contacted the man, he described his costume as a painter’s suit covered in fleece, and he said he was testing his disguise for a hunting trip.

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Transforming Power

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

Many people love to play games that test their knowledge. Recently, a colleague and I were testing a Bible-knowledge game. Since we were seated in an open area of our office, those nearby could hear our conversation. Soon questions ranging from Noah’s ark to the woman at the well were being answered by those within earshot of us. It was a delight to hear various staff members volunteering responses to Bible questions.

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Boo!

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

One of the early games that many parents play with their children involves a fake scare. Dad hides his face behind his hands and suddenly reveals himself while saying, “Boo!” The child giggles at this silliness.

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Jesus’ Love For All

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

It was a bit unusual, but three times in one day I heard the same song. In the early afternoon, I attended a hymnsing at a home for the elderly. As part of her prayer at the end of our time together, Willie, one of the residents, said, “Sing with me, ‘Jesus Loves Me.’” In the evening, I attended a gathering with young people who sang it while pounding out the beat with their hands and feet. Later that evening, I received a text message on my phone with an audio recording of my 2 1/2-year-old grandniece with a sweet little voice, singing, “I am weak, but He is strong.” People in their nineties, teenagers, and a toddler all sang that song that day.

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Consider The Lilies

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

I enjoy nature and giving praise to its Creator, but I sometimes wrongly feel guilty for admiring it too much. Then I remember that Jesus used nature as a teaching tool. To encourage people not to worry, He used simple wildflowers as an example. “Consider the lilies,” He said, and then reminded people that even though flowers do no work at all, God dresses them in splendor. His conclusion? If God clothes something temporary in such glory, He surely will do much more for us (Matt. 6:28-34).

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The Power Of Love

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

Books on leadership often appear on best-seller lists. Most of them tell how to become a powerful and effective leader. But Henri Nouwen’s book In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership is written from a different perspective. The former university professor who spent many years serving in a community of developmentally disabled adults says: “The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus? . . . In our world of loneliness and despair, there is an enormous need for men and women who know the heart of God, a heart that forgives, that cares, that reaches out and wants to heal.”

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“Lie Down”

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

Our golden retriever can get so overly excited that he will go into a seizure. To prevent that from happening, we try to calm him. We stroke him, speak to him in a soothing voice, and tell him to lie down. But when he hears “lie down,” he avoids eye contact with us and starts complaining. Finally, with a dramatic sigh of resignation, he gives in and plops to the floor.

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Empty Fort Strategy

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

In the Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, author Luo Guanzhong describes the “Empty Fort Strategy,” a use of reverse psychology to deceive the enemy. When 150,000 troops from the Wei Kingdom reached Xicheng, which had less than 2,500 soldiers, they found the city gate wide open and the famous military tactician Zhuge Liang calmly playing the zither with two children beside him. The Wei general, baffled by the scene and believing it was an ambush, ordered a full retreat.

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Limitless Love

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

Recently, a friend sent me the history of a hymn that I often heard in church when I was a boy:

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Covering Sinkholes

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

In late May 2010, tropical storm Agatha hit Central America, producing torrential rains and landslides. Once it finished its course, a 200-foot-deep sinkhole opened in downtown Guatemala City. This sinkhole caused the ground to collapse suddenly, sucking land, electrical poles, and a 3-story building into the depths of the earth.

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The Eleventh Hour

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

World War I has been ranked by many as one of the deadliest conflicts in human history. Millions lost their lives in the first global modern war. On November 11, 1918, a ceasefire was observed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. During that historic moment, millions around the world observed moments of silence while they reflected upon the war’s terrible cost—the loss of life and suffering. It was hoped that “the Great War,” as it was called, would truly be “the war that would end all wars.”

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Why Cause Grief?

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

Pastors make an easy target for criticism. Every week they are on display, carefully explaining God’s Word, challenging us toward Christlike living. But sometimes we look to find things to criticize. It’s easy to overlook all the good things a pastor does and focus on our personal opinions.

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True Love

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

During the rehearsal for my brother’s wedding ceremony, my husband snapped a picture of the bride and groom as they faced each other in front of the pastor. When we looked at the photograph later, we noticed that the camera’s flash had illuminated a metal cross in the background, which appeared as a glowing image above the couple.

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Character Or Reputation?

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden (1910–2010) believed that character is far more important than reputation. “Your reputation is what you’re perceived to be by others,” Coach Wooden often told his players, “but your character is what you really are. You’re the only one that knows your character. You can fool others, but you can’t fool yourself.”

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Hyperseeing

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

Sculptors have a term for the artist’s ability to look at a rough piece of stone and see it in its final, perfected form. It is called “hyperseeing.”

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Maintain Unity

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

A man stranded by himself on an island was finally discovered. His rescuers asked him about the three huts they saw there. He pointed and said, “This one is my home and that one is my church.” He then pointed to the third hut: “That was my former church.” Though we may laugh at the silliness of this story, it does highlight a concern about unity among believers.

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Unintentional

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

When I was returning our grandson Alex to his family after a visit, the traffic seemed especially challenging. Fast-maneuvering cars blocked me from the correct toll lane, forcing me to go through a lane where only cars with a prepaid pass are permitted, which I didn’t have. Alex told me that my license plate would be photographed and a ticket might be mailed to me. I was frustrated because a penalty would have to be paid even though my infraction was unintentional.

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Before And After

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

What changes take place in a life of faith after severe testing? I thought of this as I read the tragic story of a Jamaican dad who accidentally shot and killed his 18-year-old daughter while trying to protect his family from intruders.

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The Telltale Heart

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

Recently I read about a private investigator in the US who would knock on a door, show his badge to whoever answered, and say, “I guess we don’t have to tell you why we’re here.” Many times, the person would look stunned and say, “How did you find out?” then go on to describe an undiscovered criminal act committed long ago. Writing in Smithsonian magazine, Ron Rosenbaum described the reaction as “an opening for the primal force of conscience, the telltale heart’s internal monologue.”

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An Important Command

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

When asked by a lawyer to identify the most important rule in life, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). In those words, Jesus summed up what God most desires from us.

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Resolve To Resolve

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions since 1975. I haven’t needed any new ones—I’m still working on old ones like these: write at least a short note in my journal every day; make a strong effort to read my Bible and pray each day; organize my time; try to keep my room clean (this was before I had a whole house to keep clean).

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Guidance Needed

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

St. Nicholas Church in Galway, Ireland, has both a long history and an active present. It’s the oldest church in Ireland, and it provides guidance in a very practical way. The church towers over the town, and its steeple is used by ships’ captains as a guide for navigating their way safely into Galway Bay. For centuries, this church has reliably pointed the way home for sailors.

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Precious In God’s Eyes

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

In response to the news that a mutual friend of ours had died, a wise brother who knew the Lord sent me these words, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Ps. 116:15). Our friend’s vibrant faith in Jesus Christ was the dominant characteristic of his life, and we knew he was home with God in heaven. His family had that assurance as well, but I had been focused only on their sorrow. And it’s appropriate to consider others during their grief and loss.

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Great Expectations

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

I once asked a counselor what the major issues were that brought people to him. Without hesitation he said, “The root of many problems is broken expectations; if not dealt with, they mature into anger and bitterness.”

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The Wonder Of The Cross

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

While visiting Australia, I had the opportunity on a particularly clear night to see the Southern Cross. Located in the Southern Hemisphere, this constellation is one of the most distinctive. Mariners and navigators began relying on it as early as the 15th century for direction and navigation through the seas. Although relatively small, it is visible throughout most of the year. The Southern Cross was so vivid on that dark night that even I could pick it out of the bundle of stars. It was truly a magnificent sight!

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The Discipline Of Waiting

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

Waiting is hard. We wait in grocery lines, in traffic, in the doctor’s office. We twiddle our thumbs, stifle our yawns, and fret inwardly in frustration. On another level, we wait for a letter that doesn’t come, for a prodigal child to return, or for a spouse to change. We wait for a child we can hold in our arms. We wait for our heart’s desire.

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An Ordinary Day

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

While exploring a museum exhibit titled “A Day in Pompeii,” I was struck by the repeated theme that August 24, ad 79 began as an ordinary day. People were going about their daily business in homes, markets, and at the port of this prosperous Roman town of 20,000 people. At 8 a.m., a series of small emissions were seen coming from nearby Mount Vesuvius, followed by a violent eruption in the afternoon. In less than 24 hours, Pompeii and many of its people lay buried under a thick layer of volcanic ash. Unexpected.

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Where Have You Been?

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

Missionary Egerton Ryerson Young served the Salteaux tribe in Canada in the 1700s. The chief of the tribe thanked Young for bringing the good news of Christ to them, noting that he was hearing it for the first time in his old age. Since he knew that God was Young’s heavenly Father, the chief asked, “Does that mean He is my Father too?” When the missionary answered, “Yes,” the crowd that had gathered around burst into cheers.

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Bricks Without Straw

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

Many of us face the challenge of working with limited resources. Equipped with less money, less time, dwindling energy, and fewer helpers, our workload may remain the same. Sometimes, it even increases. There’s a saying that sums up this predicament: “More bricks, less straw.”

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In Harmony

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

I love playing the 5-string banjo. But it has one drawback. The fifth string will harmonize with only a limited number of simple chords. When other musicians want to play more complicated music, the banjoist has to adapt. He can lend marvelous melodic tones to a jam session only by making the right adjustments.

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All Spruced Up

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

Getting our children to look good for church was always a challenge. Ten minutes after arriving at church all spruced up, our little Matthew would look like he didn’t have parents. I’d see him running down the hall with his shirt half untucked, glasses cockeyed, shoes scuffed up, and cookie crumbs decorating his clothes. Left to himself, he was a mess.

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The Little Tent

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

During evangelist Billy Graham’s historic 1949 Los Angeles campaign, the big tent that held over 6,000 people was filled to overflowing every night for 8 weeks. Close by was a smaller tent set aside for counseling and prayer. Cliff Barrows, longtime music director and close friend and associate of Graham, has often said that the real work of the gospel took place in “the little tent,” where people gathered on their knees to pray before and during every evangelistic service. A local Los Angeles woman, Pearl Goode, was the heart of those prayer meetings and many that followed.

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Much More Than Survival

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

In April 1937, Mussolini’s invading armies forced all the missionaries serving in the Wallamo region to flee Ethiopia. They left behind just 48 Christian converts, who had little more than the gospel of Mark to feed their growth. Few even knew how to read. But when the missionaries returned 4 years later, the church had not just survived; it numbered 10,000!

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A Neighbor On The Fence

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

The fence around the side yard of our home was showing some wear and tear, and my husband, Carl, and I decided we needed to take it down before it fell down. It was pretty easy to disassemble, so we removed it quickly one afternoon. A few weeks later when Carl was raking the yard, a woman who was walking her dog stopped to give her opinion: “Your yard looks so much better without the fence. Besides, I don’t believe in fences.” She explained that she liked “community” and no barriers between people.

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The Journey Begins

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

Eighty-one years ago today a 9-year-old boy prayed to ask Jesus to be the Savior of his life. His mother wrote these words in a memory book: “Clair made a start today.”

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For The Long Run

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

A 2006 survey of more than 1,000 adults discovered that most people take an average of 17 minutes to lose their patience while waiting in line. Also, most people lose their patience in only 9 minutes while on hold on the phone. Impatience is a common trait.

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As Below, So Above

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

The Roman paganism of Jesus’ day taught that the actions of gods in the heavens above affected the earth below. If Zeus got angry, thunderbolts shot out. “As above, so below,” went the ancient formula.

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Words That Help And Heal

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

On November 19, 1863, two well-known men gave speeches at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The featured speaker, Edward Everett, was a former congressman, governor, and president of Harvard University. Considered one of the greatest orators of his day, Mr. Everett delivered a formal address lasting 2 hours. He was followed by President Abraham Lincoln, whose speech lasted 2 minutes.

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The Night No One Came

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

One winter night composer Johann Sebastian Bach was scheduled to debut a new composition. He arrived at the church expecting it to be full. Instead, he learned that no one had come. Without missing a beat, Bach told his musicians that they would still perform as planned. They took their places, Bach raised his baton, and soon the empty church was filled with magnificent music.

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Adoption

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

My wife, Marlene, and I have been married for over 35 years. When we were first dating, we had a conversation I have never forgotten. She told me that at 6 months old she had been adopted. When I asked her if she ever wondered about who her real parents were, she responded, “My mom and dad could have selected any of a number of other babies that day, but they chose me. They adopted me. They are my real parents.”

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Help From His Spirit

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

Many of us make promises to ourselves to mark the beginning of a new year. We make pledges such as I’m going to save more, exercise more, or spend less time on the Internet. We begin the year with good intentions, but before long old habits tempt us to take up our old ways. We slip up occasionally, then more frequently, and then all the time. Finally, it’s as if our resolution never existed.

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No Appetite

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

When I was battling a bad cold recently, I lost my appetite. I could go through an entire day without eating much food. Water would suffice. But I knew I couldn’t survive long on water alone. I needed to regain my appetite because my body needed nourishment.

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31 Days Of Thanks

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

January, according to many US calendars, is National Thank You Month. This, of course, is easily transferable everywhere, so perhaps it should be Global Thank You Month.

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Letter To A Child

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

Even at the end of his life, C. S. Lewis showed an interest in the spiritual nurture of younger believers. Although in ill health, he took time to respond to the letter of a child named Philip. Complimenting the boy’s fine written expression, Lewis said he was delighted that Philip understood that in the Narnia Chronicles the lion Aslan represented Jesus Christ. The next day, Lewis died at his home in the Kilns, Oxford, England, one week before his 65th birthday.

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The Presentation

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

My wife, Martie, is a great cook. After a long day I often look forward to the smell of spicy aromas that promise a tasty feast. Not only does she know how to prepare a meal, but she is also a master at the presentation. The colors of the food on the plate, beautifully arranged in a harmony of meat, white puffy rice, and vegetables welcome me to pull up my chair and enjoy her handiwork. But the food was not so attractive before she got her hands on it. The meat was raw and squishy, the rice was hard and brittle, and the vegetables needed to be scrubbed and trimmed.

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Be Present

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

After 20 children and 6 staff members were murdered in a Connecticut school, the entire nation was stunned that such a horrific thing could happen. Everyone focused on the tragedy and the questions surrounding it: What kind of person would do such a thing, and why? How can we prevent it from happening again? How can we help the survivors? Amid the chaos, an unlikely group moved in and made a difference.

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Christmas Wonder

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

After my first semester in seminary, my family was given airline tickets to fly home for Christmas. The night before our flight, we realized we had less than $20 for the trip. Parking, transportation, and other incidentals were certain to cost more than $20. Heartsick, we resolved to pray about it. Though our children were small (6 and 2), we included them in the prayer time.

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Light And Shadow

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

Art historian Seymour Slive described the great Dutch artist Rembrandt (1606–1669) as the master of light and shadow, a compelling storyteller on canvas. Rembrandt’s painting The Adoration of the Shepherds portrays the darkened stable in Bethlehem where two shepherds kneel beside the manger while other people stand farther away. One man holds a lantern, but the brightest light shines not from his lantern but from the Christ-child, illuminating those who have gathered close to Him.

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Taking Refuge

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

In the medieval world, farmers would care for their crops until an enemy appeared on the horizon. Then they would flee with their families to their fortified city for protection from the marauders.

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The Son Is Given

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

One of my favorite portions of Handel’s Messiah is the joyous movement “For unto us a Child is born,” from the first part of the oratorio. I especially love how the chorus rises to the phrase, “Unto us a Son is given.” Those words, of course, are taken from Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Handel’s majestic music soars with adoration for the Son who came to us in human flesh that first Christmas.

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Not All Empty

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

Our granddaughter Julia spent the summer working in an orphanage in Busia, Uganda. On the final day of her internship, she went to the children to tell each one goodbye. One little girl named Sumaya was very sad and said to her, “Tomorrow you leave us, and next week the other aunties [interns] leave.”

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Love And Support

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

I received this note from a friend serving in an orphanage in a developing country: “Yesterday, as I was sitting at my office desk, I noticed a trail of ants on the floor. As I followed it, I was shocked to see that thousands of ants had blanketed the walls of our office building—inside and out. They swarmed everything. Fortunately, one of the workers . . . set to work. Less than an hour later, the ants were gone.”

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Living Backward

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

The Chicago River is unusual because it flows backward. Engineers reversed its direction over a century ago because city-dwellers were using it as a dump. Dishwater, sewage, and industrial waste all funneled into the river, which emptied into Lake Michigan. Since the lake supplied drinking water for the city, thousands grew sick and died before city authorities decided to redirect the river to flow backward, away from the lake.

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Canceled Christmas

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

We felt as if our Christmas was being canceled last year. Actually, our flight to see family in Missouri was canceled due to snow. It’s been our tradition for quite a few years to celebrate Christmas with them, so we were greatly disappointed when we only got as far as Minnesota and had to return home to Michigan.

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A New Force

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

When Matteo Ricci went to China in the 16th century, he took samples of religious art to illustrate the Christian story for people who had never heard it. They readily accepted portraits of Mary holding the baby Jesus, but when he produced paintings of the crucifixion and tried to explain that the God-child had come to be executed, his audience reacted with revulsion and horror. They couldn’t worship a crucified God.

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Lasting Rewards

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

Ukrainian gymnast Larisa Latynina held the record of 18 Olympic medals. She won them in the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Olympics. The 48-year-old record was surpassed when Michael Phelps swam for his 19th gold in the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay in the 2012 London Games. “[Latynina] kind of got lost in history,” the publisher of the International Gymnast magazine said. When the Soviet Union broke up, “we had forgotten about her.”

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Costume Or Uniform?

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

Eunice McGarrahan gave an inspiring talk on Christian discipleship in which she said, “A costume is something you put on and pretend that you are what you are wearing. A uniform, on the other hand, reminds you that you are, in fact, what you wear.”

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Hope For Skeptics

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

As a workplace chaplain, I’m privileged to be in conversation with many different people. Some are skeptics of the Christian faith. I’ve discovered three major hurdles that keep them from trusting in Christ for salvation.

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Serious Fear

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

After weeks of preparation by the children’s choir, the night had finally arrived for our annual Christmas musical in 1983. The costumed children began filing into the auditorium when suddenly we heard a ruckus at the back door. My wife and I turned to look and saw our own little Matt. Sobbing loudly and with a look of sheer terror on his face, he had a death grip on the door handle. He refused to enter the auditorium. After much negotiating, the director finally told him he didn’t have to go on stage. Instead, Matt sat with us, and soon his fears began to subside.

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Get Your “Wanter” Fixed

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

When my wife was a young girl in Austin, Texas, Carlyle Marney was her family’s neighbor, pastor, and friend. One of his off-hand remarks about being content became one of her family’s enduring expressions: “Dr. Marney says, ‘We just need to get our wanter fixed.’”

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Eureka Stone

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

In 1867 on a farm in South Africa, 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs saw a stone glistening in the sun. The shining rock was eventually reported to a neighbor, who wanted to buy it from the family. Not knowing its value, Erasmus’ mother told the neighbor, “You can keep the stone, if you want it.”

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One Stretch

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

For years, Sarah had low-back pain that continued to worsen. Her doctor sent her for physical therapy, and she was given 25 stretches to do every day. The pain lessened but not completely. So the doctor ordered x-rays and sent her to another therapist, who instructed her to discontinue the other therapist’s stretches and do only one stretch a day as needed. Surprisingly, the one simple stretch worked the best.

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Integrity League

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

We call it the Integrity League, but it’s really just a bunch of guys who get together at lunchtime to play basketball. We call fouls on ourselves, attempt to avoid angry outbursts, and simply try to keep everything fair and enjoyable. We are competitive and we don’t like to lose—but we all agree that integrity and honesty should control the atmosphere.

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God Waiting

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

During the Christmas season we wait. We wait in traffic. We wait in checkout lines to purchase gifts. We wait for family to arrive. We wait to gather around a table filled with our favorite foods. We wait to open presents lovingly chosen.

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Attending To Our Words

Our Daily Bread Cover November 2013

A week after C. S. Lewis died in 1963, colleagues and friends gathered in the chapel of Magdalen College, Oxford, England, to pay tribute to the man whose writings had fanned the flames of faith and imagination in children and scholars alike.

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