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Dave Branon

Dave Branon

After serving at Our Daily Bread Ministries for nearly two decades as managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine, Dave was a senior editor for ODB Publishing for thirteen years. He retired in 2021 after forty years with the ministry.

Articles by Dave Branon

Any Questions?

Ann was meeting with her oral surgeon for a preliminary exam—a physician she’d known for many years. He asked her, “Do you have any questions?” She said, “Yes. Did you go to church last Sunday?” Her question wasn’t intended to be judgmental, but simply to initiate a conversation about faith.

The surgeon had a less-than-positive church experience growing up, and he hadn’t gone back. Because of Ann’s question and their conversation, he reconsidered the role of Jesus and church in his life. When Ann later gave him a Bible with his name imprinted on it, he received it with tears.

Sometimes we fear confrontation or don’t want to seem too aggressive in sharing our faith. But there can be a winsome way to witness about Jesus—ask questions.

For a man who was God and knew everything, Jesus sure asked a lot of questions. While we don’t know His purposes in asking, it’s clear His questions were inviting, prompting others to respond. His first response to Andrew was, “What do you want?” (John 1:38). He asked blind Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51; Luke 18:41). He asked the paralyzed man by the Bethesda pool, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). Transformation happened for each of these individuals after Jesus’ initial question.

Is there someone you want to approach about matters of faith? (Luke 18:42). Ask God to give you the right questions to ask.

A Different Approach

When Mary Slessor sailed to the African nation of Calabar (now Nigeria) in the late 1800s, she was enthusiastic to continue the missionary work of the late David Livingstone. Her first assignment, teaching school while living among fellow missionaries, left her burdened for a different way to serve. So she did something rare in that region—she moved in with the people she was serving. Mary learned their language, lived their way, and ate their food. She even took in dozens of children who’d been abandoned. For nearly forty years she brought hope and the gospel to those who needed both.

The apostle Paul knew the importance of truly meeting the needs of those around us. He mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:5 that there are “different kinds of service, but the same Lord.” And “we have different gifts” (Romans 12:6). So he served people in their area of need. For instance, “to the weak [he] became weak” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

One church I’m aware of recently announced the launch of an “all abilities” ministry approach complete with a barrier-free facility—making worship available for people with disabilities. This is the Paul-like kind of thinking that wins hearts and allows the gospel to flourish in a community.

As we live out our faith before those around us, may God lead us to fresh and different ways to introduce them to Jesus.

From Darkness to Light

Nothing could pull Aakash out of his dark depression. Severely injured in a truck accident, he was taken to a missionary hospital in Southwest Asia. Eight operations repaired his broken bones, but he couldn’t eat. Depression set in. His family depended on him to provide, which he couldn't do, so his world grew darker.

One day a visitor read to Aakash from the gospel of John in his language and prayed for him. Touched by the hope of God’s free gift of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus, he placed his faith in Him. His depression soon left. When he returned home, he was afraid at first to mention his newfound faith. Finally, though, he told his family about Jesus—and six of them trusted Him as well!

John’s gospel is a beacon of light in a world of darkness. In it we read that “whoever believes in [Jesus] shall not perish but have eternal life” (3:16). We discover that “whoever hears [Jesus’] word and believes [God] has eternal life” (5:24). And we hear Jesus say, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry” (6:35). Indeed, “whoever lives by the truth comes into the light” (3:21)

The troubles we face may be great, but Jesus is greater. He came to give us “life . . . to the full” (10:10). Like Aakash, may you place your faith in Jesus—the hope of the world and the light for all humanity.

Parting Words

As he neared the end of his life, John Perkins had a message for the people he would leave behind. Perkins, known for advocating racial reconciliation, said, “Repentance is the only way back to God. Unless you repent, you will all perish.”

These words mirror the language of Jesus and many Bible characters. Christ said, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). The apostle Peter said, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19).

Much earlier in Scripture, we read the words of another person who desired that his people would turn to God. Samuel, in his farewell address “to all Israel” (1 Samuel 12:1) said, “Do not be afraid; . . . you have done . . . evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart” (v. 20). This was his message of repentance—to turn from evil and follow God wholeheartedly.

 We all sin and miss the mark of His standard. So we need to repent, which means to turn away from sin and turn to Jesus who forgives us and empowers us to follow Him. Let’s heed the words of two men, John Perkins and Samuel, who recognized how God can use the power of repentance to change us into people He can use for His honor.

Exploring the Stars

In 2021, a multination effort led to the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope—deployed nearly a million miles from Earth to better investigate the universe. This marvel will peer into deep space and examine the stars and other celestial wonders.

This is indeed a fascinating astronomical piece of technology, and if everything works, it will provide us with amazing photos and information. But its mission isn’t new. In fact, the prophet Isaiah described searching the stars when he said, “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one” (Isaiah 40:26). “Night after night” they speak of our Creator who hurled this imperceptibly immense universe into existence (Psalm 19:2)—and with it the countless luminous bodies that silently grace our night sky (v. 3).

And it’s God Himself who decided how many of the shining objects there are: “He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name” (Psalm 147:4). When mankind sends complicated, fascinating probes to explore the universe, we can enjoy with spellbound wonder the discoveries they make, because each observation points back to the One who made the solar system and everything beyond it. Yes, the “heavens declare the glory of God” (19:1)—stars and all.

The Power of Forgiveness

A 2021 news reports told of seventeen missionaries that had been kidnapped by a gang. The gang threatened to kill the group (including children) if their ransom demands weren’t met. Incredibly, all the missionaries were either released or escaped to freedom. On reaching safety, they sent a message to their captors: “Jesus taught us by word and by His own example that the power of forgiving love is stronger than the hate of violent force. Therefore, we extend forgiveness to you.”

Jesus made it clear that forgiveness is powerful. He said, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). Later, in answering Peter, Christ told how often we should forgive: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (18:22; see 21–35). And on the cross, He demonstrated godly forgiveness when He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).  

Forgiveness at its fullest can be realized when both parties move toward healing and reconciliation. And while it doesn’t remove the effects of harm done or the need to be discerning in how to address painful or unhealthy relationships, it can lead to restored ones—testifying to God’s love and power. Let’s look for ways to “extend forgiveness” for His honor.

Why Do This?

As I was helping my sixth-grade grandson Logan with some tough algebra-type homework, he told me of his dream of becoming an engineer. After we returned to figuring out what to do with the x’s and y’s in his assignment, he said, “When am I ever going to use this stuff?”

I couldn’t help but smile, saying, “Well, Logan, this is exactly the stuff you’ll use if you become an engineer!” He hadn’t realized the connection between algebra and his hoped-for future.

Sometimes we view Scripture that way. When we listen to sermons and read certain parts of the Bible, we may think, “When am I ever going to use this?” The psalmist David had some answers. He said God’s truths found in Scripture do these things: “[refresh] the soul,” “[make] wise the simple,” and “[give] joy to the heart” (Psalm 19:7–8). The wisdom of Scripture, found in the first five books of the Bible as referred to in Psalm 19 (as well as all of Scripture), helps us as we daily rely on the Spirit’s leading (Proverbs 2:6).

And without the Scriptures we’d lack the vital way God has provided for us to experience Him and better know His love and ways. Why study the Bible? Because “the commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes” (Psalm 19:8).

The Loneliest Man

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out of their lunar landing module and became the first humans to walk on the surface of the moon. But we don’t often think about the third person on their team, Michael Collins, who was flying the command module for Apollo 11.

After his teammates clambered down the ladder to test the lunar surface, Collins waited alone on the far side of the moon. He was out of touch with Neil, Buzz, and everyone on earth. NASA’s mission control commented, “Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins.”

There are times when we feel completely alone. Imagine, for instance, how Joseph, Jacob’s son, felt when he was taken from Israel to Egypt after his brothers sold him (Genesis 37:23–28). Then he was thrust into further isolation by being thrown in prison on false charges (39:19–21).

How did Joseph survive in prison in a foreign land with no family anywhere near? Listen to this: “While Joseph was there in prison, the Lord was with him” (v. 21). Four times we’re reminded of this comforting truth in Genesis 39.

 Do you feel alone or isolated from others? Hold on to the truth of God’s presence, promised by Jesus Himself: “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). With Jesus as your Savior, you’re never alone.

Seven Minutes of Terror

When the Mars rover Perseverance landed on that red planet on February 18, 2021, those monitoring its arrival endured “seven minutes of terror.” As the spacecraft ended its 292-million-mile journey, it went through a complex landing procedure it had to do on its own. Signals from Mars to Earth take several minutes, so NASA couldn’t hear from Perseverance during the landing. Not being in contact was frightening for the team who had put so much effort and resources into the mission.

Sometimes we may experience our own times of fear when we feel we’re not hearing from God—we pray but we don’t get answers. In Scripture, we find people getting answers to prayer quickly (see Daniel 9:20–23) and those not getting answers for a long time (see Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel 1:10–20). Perhaps the most poignant example of a delayed answer—one that surely struck terror in the hearts of Mary and Martha—was when they asked Jesus to help their sick brother Lazarus (John 11:3). Jesus delayed, and their brother died (vv. 6–7, 14–15). Yet four days later, Christ answered by resurrecting Lazarus (vv. 43–44).  

Waiting for answers to our prayers can be difficult. But God can comfort and help as we “approach [His] throne of grace with confidence, . . . [that] we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).