Entries by YMI

ODJ: We Are Family

December 13, 2018 

READ: Psalm 133:1-3 

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! (v.1).

During a conference, believers in Jesus discussed differing perspectives on the relationship between Scripture and science. Although we disagreed about important matters, it was obvious the participants on all sides loved Jesus. We didn’t let our differences disguise our bond as members of God’s family. In fact, our unity seemed even sweeter because it shone within our differences.

As Jewish pilgrims walked up to Jerusalem to celebrate one of three annual festivals, they sang of this type of unity: “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” It “is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe” (Psalm 133:1-2). If this happened to me, I’d reach for some shampoo, but an Israelite would have understood. Aromatic oil was used to authorise and empower God’s prophets, priests and kings. It was a tangible sign the leaders belonged to Him.

Pouring oil on someone’s head isn’t a common practice these days, but the unity it symbolised still authorises and energises us. Unity also refreshes, like the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the arid hills of Jerusalem (v.3). Most significantly, Jesus said that when believers are united in love, the “world will know” that God loves them as much as He loves Jesus (John 17:23).

Thank God for like-minded believers who agree with us on disputable matters. But thank Him also for brothers and sisters who see things differently. They not only keep us seeking the Scriptures, but our differences supply an opportunity to rally around Jesus. How “wonderful and pleasant” it is to place our focus on Him!

—Mike Wittmer

365-day plan: 2 Timothy 1:1-18

MORE
Read Ephesians 5:1-14. How does belonging to the family of God change how we live? 
NEXT
Think of one believer with whom you struggle to get along. Pray for him or her. What else can you do to promote unity with others in Christ? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: The “Hope for a Baby” Tree

December 13, 2018 

READ: Lamentations 3:1–3, 13–24  

His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22–23

 

After wrapping the tree with clear twinkle lights, I tied pink and blue bows on its branches and christened it our “Hope for a Baby” Christmas tree. My husband and I had been waiting for a baby through adoption for more than four years. Surely by Christmas!

Every morning I stopped at the tree and prayed, reminding myself of God’s faithfulness. On December 21 we received the news: no baby by Christmas. Devastated, I paused by the tree that had become a symbol of God’s provision. Was God still faithful? Was I doing something wrong?

At times, God’s apparent withholding results from His loving discipline. And other times God lovingly delays to renew our trust. In Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah describes God’s correction of Israel. The pain is palpable: “He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver” (3:13). Through it all, Jeremiah also expresses ultimate trust in God’s faithfulness: “His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (vv. 22–23).

I left the tree standing well beyond Christmas and continued my morning prayer. At last, on Easter weekend, we received our baby girl. God is always faithful, though not necessarily on our timeline nor always according to our desires.

My children are now in their thirties, but each year I set up a miniature version of the tree, reminding myself and others to hope in God’s faithfulness.

— Elisa Morgan

Dear God, help me trust You today even when I can’t see what You are doing. You are faithful.

The best reason for hope is God’s faithfulness.  

ODJ: Inside Out

December 12, 2018 

READ: Matthew 5:43-48 

You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect (v.48).

During two different semesters, I taught a “Discipleship Ministries” course to pastors and lay leaders at our local Bible college. As we were reading through the Sermon on the Mount, memorising Romans 12 and reading through Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, one of my students said he’d been convicted. For the first time, he truly understood how Jesus wanted him to live out his faith in his workplace—a place where he’d often been tempted to harbour contempt towards moody and rude customers.

Throughout the Matthew 5 portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He repeats a variation of these words: “You have heard the law that says . . . But I say” (vv.21-22,27-28,31-32,33-34,38-39,43-44). Mostly well-intentioned religious leaders of the time had enacted laws and codes to help people follow God more intentionally. The people started believing, however, that following the rules—going through the motions—could make them pure and perfect.

But Jesus protested such theology. He said that if we’re striving to be like our heavenly Father—pure, perfect, holy (Matthew 5:48)—then it’s not enough to go through the motions on the outside. Obedience to God must be on the inside too—in our hearts (see Psalm 15:2, 51:10,16-17). Only then, when our hearts are filled with love for God and others, will we be on our way to becoming pure in our relationships.

My student told our class he knew Jesus was calling him to serve and love customers who mistreated him. It wasn’t enough to be “kind on the outside”, he said. Jesus, through the strength of the Spirit, was calling him to rid himself of internal contempt and bitterness towards others—to be changed from the inside out.

—Marlena Graves

365-day plan: 1 Timothy 6:3-21

MORE
Read Psalm 51:10 and think about what areas of your heart need to be made clean by the Holy Spirit’s power. 
NEXT
Who is God calling you to love from your heart, not just in outward behaviour? Is it possible to be cleansed from the inside out apart from the Holy Spirit’s work? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: The “No-Secret” Secret

December 12, 2018 

READ: Romans 7:14–25  

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:15

 

A coworker confessed to me that he didn’t think he was “Jesus material.” I listened as he described what he called his “comfortable, narcissistic” life, and how it didn’t satisfy him. “But here’s my problem, I’ve been trying to be good, even caring, but it isn’t working. It seems that the very things I want to do, I can’t do, and the things I want to stop doing, I just keep doing.”

“What’s your secret?” he asked me in complete sincerity. “My secret,” I answered, “is that there is no secret. I’m as powerless to live up to God’s standards as you are, which is why we need Jesus.” 

I pulled out a Bible and showed him “his” quote as the apostle Paul expressed it in Romans 7:15. Paul’s words of frustration often resonate with both pre-Christians and Christians who find themselves trying to be good enough to deserve God but falling short. Maybe it resonates with you. If so, Paul’s declaration that Christ is the author of our salvation and its resulting changes (7:25–8:2) should thrill you. Jesus has already done the work to free us from the very things that have us so puzzled with ourselves!

The barrier between us and God, the barrier of sin, has been removed without any work on our part. Salvation—and the changes made by the Holy Spirit in the process of our growth—is what God desires for all. He knocks on the door of our souls. Answer His knock today. It’s no secret that He’s the answer!

— Randy Kilgore

Without Jesus, salvation and spiritual growth are both gifts beyond our reach.