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    bread. is a devotional resource curated by Benjamin A. Simpson. Follow bread. on Twitter: @bread_devo. If you would like to write for bread., send an inquiry here for submission guidelines.


    Taking Shortcuts

    Sarai, Abram's wife, hadn't yet produced a child. She had an Egyptian maid named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, "God has not seen fit to let me have a child. Sleep with my maid. Maybe I can get a family from her." Abram agreed to do what Sarai said.
    -Genesis 16:1-2 (The Message)

    A driveway is incomplete if it does not have a basketball goal. I can remember helping with the installation of the first permanent hoop that was to tower above our drive--the post-hole digger, mixing concrete, using the level and sinking the post.

    I also remember our neglect for the instructions, our oversight in using a tape measure, and this sobering fact: our basketball hoop could never be raised to exceed nine and a half feet tall.

    Abram and Sarai has been informed by God that they would be parents to a son. This son was to be the first in a long line of descendants who would become God's covenant people, more numerous than the stars and as uncountable as the sands on the seashore. But the fulfillment of the promise was slow in coming. Sarai became impatient.  Another plan was proposed.

    Though Abram had been told that Sarai would bear him a son, he concurred with Sarai's alternative approach, and took Hagar his servant to his tent. Together, they conceived a son, Ishmael. But this son was not the son of the promise. Because Abram and Sarai became impatient, took a short cut, and tried to accelerate God's time table, they inherited a mess.

    Like Sarai, we are prone to take shortcuts, to get impatient, to formulate and execute our own plans. But God asks us to be patient, and if we learn anything from Scripture and our experiences, God will fulfill his purposes in due time.

    Don't take a shortcut. Be patient, yet deliberate and purposeful in waiting. When called to act, be ready to spring. God is faithful.

    Sovereign God, help me to remain steadfast in my trust in you. Give me the strength to resist the temptation of hurry, of impatience, of mistrust. May I be diligent while I wait for your cue, and poised to act when the time is indeed right. Your way is best. Help me to walk in it. Amen.


    The Insatiable Longing

    Why is everyone hungry for more?
    "More, more," they say. "More, more." I have God's 
    more-than-enough, More joy in one ordinary day 
    Than they get in all their shopping sprees. At day's end I'm ready for sound sleep, For you, God, have put my life back together.
    -Psalm 4:6-8 (The Message)

    Last night I attended the Lamar Hunt U. S. Open Cup final at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting Kansas City squared off against the Seattle Sounders in an intense, well contested match. The crowd exceeded 18,000 people, kickoff was preceded by thunderstorms, a double rainbow, and a forty minute delay. The crowd was dialed up, the energy was thick, palpable. Before kickoff, the Members' Stand raised a banner with an image of the trophy that would go to the winner of the contest, and a message. It read, "For the Glory of the City."

    Sporting Kansas City has expressed their desire to win, and they have delivered. They have acquired talented players and constructed a top notch stadium. They are incredibly fan friendly. People have responded. They are possessed by a deep want for winning. Winning is the highest value, and they do everything in their power to bring about that end. Winning is a source of glory.

    We all have something similar, I suppose. We all have something for which we long, that we deeply desire. We sacrifice and work and strive for that thing, whatever it is. If we obtain our goal, whether it be wealth or health or a relationship or food or possessions, we may be content for a little while. But then a new desire sets in, a new want, a new thing, a new person, a new earnings goal. Contentment is hard to find. 

    Saint Augustine once wrote, "My heart is restless, O God, until it rests in Thee." There are many pursuits in life that are worthwhile and good. I would even say that Sporting Kansas City's desire to be an excellent organization that brings joy to the city through top notch soccer and championships is a worthwhile pursuit. But there is only one thing in all the universe that can put all our other longings in check, only one thing that can be ultimate that will satisfy us without consuming us.

    That something, the Eternal God, is the source and rightful recipient of all glory. God, as the recipient of our thanksgiving and the ultimate satisfaction for all of our deepest longings, is the one who can put all our other glorious pursuits in their rightful place, while simultaneously bestowing upon us the radiance of his own glory, which is the restoration of our souls through faith in Jesus Christ. Christ came to save us, to redeem us, to repair and renew the image of God in each human being; God puts our life back together.

    Seek glory in God, and place your longings in their rightful place compared to your pursuit, love, and relationship to him.

    Create in me a clean heart, O God, and reorient my heart to seek satisfaction in you. Let all my other desires and longings find their rightful place in light of my first calling, to know you and to serve you all my days. Amen.



    God continued, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and everything living around you and everyone living after you. I'm putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth. From now on, when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I'll remember my covenant between me and you and everything living, that never again will floodwaters destroy all life. When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I'll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last living creature on Earth."
    -Genesis 9:12-16 (The Message)

    See and remember.

    Each day, I encounter visible reminders that call to mind important realities. My wedding ring reminds me of promises made on my wedding day. On my bookshelf, I keep a King James Bible that belonged to my grandmother to remind me of the faith of those who came before me. I carry a pocket knife that was given to me by a friend to remind me of good times and laughter and close fellowship.

    Doubtlessly, you have visible reminders seen each day that cause you to think, reinforce certain stories, bring new life to old memories, old conversations. These reminders cause you to consider what you've been through, the challenges, hardships, difficulties, and trials, as well as the triumphs, victories, joys, and celebrations. These reminders bring to mind a story.

    In the story of Noah the flood waters recede, and then there appears the rainbow, the promise! The rainbow is something for human beings and for God to behold, to see and remember. The rainbow is a visible reminder of a covenant, it is a sign of hope, a new future. Catastrophe is behind, new life is ahead. The rainbow is also a reminder of a story.

    What signs do you surround yourself with that cause you to see and remember? What signs give you hope, even in despair? What signs remind you of God's mercy, of grace?

    Besides the rainbow, what are your rainbows?

    See and remember.

    All powerful, all good, all wise, all merciful God, you have given us signs by which to remember your promises. We look to the rainbow, and remember your covenant with Noah. We look to the cross, and we remember Jesus's words in John, saying that by being lifted up, he would draw all people to himself. Help me today to find signs of your love, signs of the promises you have made, and the person you are calling me to become. Give me the grace to trust in your love, and to live a Spirit-filled life in light of the good you have promised. Amen.


    Walking Steady

    Enoch walked steadily with God. And then one day he was simply gone: God took him.
    -Genesis 5:24 (The Message)

    The life of Enoch is legendary. We don't know much about his life. We know that he was born to Jared, he was father to Methuselah, and that he walked with God. One day, he was taken up, whisked away, gone.

    We also know that he was remembered by the covenant community, and that God deemed fit to lead the biblical authors to include these details of his story. We know that his life holds significance; he is remembered as someone who knew God.

    Often times, genealogies leave us bored. Genealogies may have been the first sleep aid. But the names are there for a reason, and behind every name is a story. With a little imagination, and a little effort, we can crawl inside the text. We can wonder. We can piece together bits here and there that are suggestive and evocative, instructing us and calling out to us, as we ponder where we fit in this world.

    Think of your own life. You were born, to a father and mother. Perhaps you have children, as did Enoch. But what about the rest? If someone ascribed a phrase, just a phrase, to you life, what would it be? Would it be about your business ventures? Your passion for sports or politics? Your love or disdain for a neighbor? What would it be?

    And what, specifically, are the habits and patterns of life that so constitute your life that would lead others to assign that particular phrase to you?

    For Enoch, his was "walked steadily with God," all the more significant because of his manner of departure. But as far as brief ascriptions, not bad. Was Enoch someone possessing a quiet depth of wisdom, evidence of his communion with God? A man of prayer? Was he a bold prophet, speaking truth to power? Was he a storyteller? An executor of justice? Was he kind and loving? Or strong and courageous? Did his hands effect healing? Was he a comforter to those who mourn? Use your imagination. Crawl around in his world. Try to see.

    Walking steady with God. Try it on your life. Does it stick?

    If so, keep walking.

    If not, start walking.

    God, help me to walk steady with you, as did Enoch. May I come to possess the character of Jesus Christ, one that can only be obtained by spending time in the presence of the Master himself. Amen.


    Meaningful Work

    God took the Man and set him down in the Garden of Eden to work the ground and keep it in order.
    -Genesis 2:15 (The Message)

    Since moving to Kansas City I have had a number of jobs. I have worked as a barista, a youth minister, a freelance writer, a bus driver, a yard care specialist, and, just this week, I was paid a small fee to provide taxi service for a man in my neighborhood. I cannot say I have enjoyed every minute of these jobs, and I trust most who work could say the same of their employment. It isn't all soft money, and we are tempted to complain. For those familiar with the Bible, we often do so in terms of Genesis 3--the curse.

    However, we do well to remember that the mandate to keep and tend the garden came prior to the moment the man and woman took and ate the forbidden fruit. Work preceded rebellion, and the curse. Work is not the curse, toil is.

    Why does this matter? Because work is part of all, if not most of our lives. Our attitude toward our work is important. We derive meaning from our work, and it is a critical space for our formation in Christ. It is the arena of faithfulness. It is a space wherein God can teach and instruct us, and where we can image forth Jesus, not only in our conversations about what we believe, but with regard to the way we carry out our responsibilities.

    Diligent work in your job today is an extension of God's action in Genesis 2, and builds credibility for gospel witness. Jesus came to renew all things, including the realm of work. Approach your work today by first affirming God's gift of work, and ask for help in performing your responsibilities in a manner that brings honor to Jesus Christ.

    Lord, help me to conduct myself in my work in a way that brings honor to you. Help me see my work as a meaningful venture, contributing in some way to the upbuilding of human community. Give me wisdom when I speak and strength as I put my hands to various tasks. Let me be a blessing to my neighbor, whether co-worker or customer. In Christ's name, amen.