Entries by YMI

ODB: Costly Joy

July 16, 2020 

READ: Matthew 13:44–46 

When a man found it, he . . . went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44

 

At the sound of the digital melody, all six of us sprang into action. Some slipped shoes on, others simply bolted for the door barefoot. Within seconds we were all sprinting down the driveway chasing the ice cream truck. It was the first warm day of summer, and there was no better way to celebrate than with a cold, sweet treat! There are things we do simply because of the joy it brings us, not out of discipline or obligation.

In the pair of parables found in Matthew 13:44–46, the emphasis is selling everything to gain something else. We might think the stories are about sacrifice. But that’s not the point. In fact, the first story declares it was “joy” that led the man to sell everything and buy the field. Joy drives change—not guilt or duty.

Jesus isn’t one segment of our lives; His claims on us are total. Both men in the stories “sold all” (v. 44). But here’s the best part: the result of this selling of everything is actually gain. We may not have guessed that. Isn’t life in Christ about taking up your cross? Yes. It is. But when we die, we live; when we lose our life, we find it. When we “sell all,” we gain the greatest treasure: Jesus! Joy is the reason; surrender is the response. The treasure of knowing Jesus is the reward.

— Glenn Packiam

How have you experienced joy in your relationship with Jesus? What is He inviting you to surrender to Him?

Dear Jesus, open my eyes to see the treasure that You are! Direct my heart to You as the source of true and unfailing joy, and let me ever be fixed on You. Grant me the grace to surrender all to You.  

ODB: Treasure the Moments

July 15, 2020 

READ: Ecclesiastes 3:1–14 

[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11

 

Su Dongpo (also known as Su Shi) was one of China’s greatest poets and essayists. While in exile and gazing upon a full moon, he wrote a poem to describe how much he missed his brother. “We rejoice and grieve, gather and leave, while the moon waxes and wanes. Since times of old, nothing remains perfect,” he writes. “May our loved ones live long, beholding this beautiful scene together though thousands of miles apart.”

His poem carries themes found in the book of Ecclesiastes. The author, known as the Teacher (1:1), observed that there’s “a time to weep and a time to laugh . . . a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing” (3:4–5). By pairing two contrasting activities, the Teacher, like Su Dongpo, seems to suggest that all good things must inevitably come to an end.

As Su Dongpo saw the waxing and waning of the moon as another sign that nothing remains perfect, the Teacher also saw in creation God’s providential ordering of the world He’d made. God oversees the course of events, and “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (v. 11).

Life may be unpredictable and sometimes filled with painful separations, but we can take heart that everything takes place under God’s gaze. We can enjoy life and treasure the moments—the good and the bad—for our loving God is with us. 

— Poh Fang Chia

What are some things you’re afraid to try because of life’s unpredictability? How can you lean on Jesus as you step forward in courage to forge new friendships and deepen relationships?

Thank You, loving Father, for watching over all seasons of my life. Help me to trust in You and enjoy the life You’ve given me.  

ODB: Playing the Fool

July 14, 2020 

READ: James 4:4–12 

God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. James 4:6

 

My most humiliating experience ever was the day I addressed the faculty, students, and friends of a seminary on its fifty-year anniversary. I approached the lectern with my manuscript in hand and looked out on a vast crowd, but my eye fell on the distinguished professors seated in the front row, garbed in academic gowns and looking very serious. I immediately took leave of my senses. My mouth dried up and detached itself from my brain. I fumbled the first few sentences and then I began to improvise. Since I had no idea where I was in my lecture, I began frantically turning pages, while talking a line of nonsense that baffled everyone. Somehow I made it through, crept back to my chair, and stared at the floor. I wanted to die. 

However, I learned that humiliation can be a good thing if it leads to humility, for this is the key that opens God’s heart. The Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6). He showers the humble with grace. God Himself said, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). As we humble ourselves before God, He lifts us up (James 4:10). 

Humiliation and shame can bring us to God for His shaping. When we fall, we have fallen into His hands.

— David H. Roper

What was your most humiliating and embarrassing moment? What good thing did you see come from it?

Loving God, help me to accept humiliation if it in some way brings honor and glory to You.  

ODB: Look Up!

July 13, 2020 

READ: Psalm 8:3–4; Revelation 21:22–25 

There will be no night there. Revelation 21:25

 

When filmmaker Wylie Overstreet showed strangers a live picture of the moon as seen through his powerful telescope, they were stunned at the up-close view, reacting with whispers and awe. To see such a glorious sight, Overstreet explained, “fills us with a sense of wonder that there’s something much bigger than ourselves.”

The psalmist David also marveled at God’s heavenly light. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3–4).

David’s humbling question puts our awe in perspective when we learn that, after God creates His new heaven and earth, we’ll no longer need the moon or the sun. Instead, said John the apostle, God’s shimmering glory will provide all necessary light. “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. . . . There will be no night there” (Revelation 21:23–25).

What an amazing thought! Yet we can experience His heavenly light now—simply by seeking Christ, the Light of the world. In Overstreet’s view, “We should look up more often.” As we do, may we see God.

— Patricia Raybon

What does God’s heavenly light teach you about Him? When you praise the glory of God, what do you experience?

Our wondrous God, I’m awed by Your holy glory, and I praise You for Your marvelous Light.  

ODB: United in Separation

July 12, 2020 

READ: Genesis 13:1–9 

Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me . . . for we are close relatives. Genesis 13:8

 

Thrown into a project with his colleague Tim, Alvin faced a major challenge: he and Tim had very different ideas of how to go about it. While they respected each other’s opinions, their approaches were so different that conflict seemed imminent. Before conflict broke out, however, the two men agreed to discuss their differences with their boss, who put them on separate teams. It turned out to be a wise move. That day, Alvin learned this lesson: Being united doesn’t always mean doing things together. 

Abraham must have realized this truth when he suggested that he and Lot go their separate ways in Bethel (Genesis 13:5–9). Seeing that there wasn’t enough space for both their flocks, Abraham wisely suggested parting company. But first, he stressed that they were “close relatives” (v. 8), reminding Lot of their relationship. Then, with the greatest humility, he let his nephew have the first choice (v. 9) even though he, Abraham, was the senior man. It was, as one pastor described it, a “harmonious separation.” 

Being made uniquely by God, we may find that we sometimes work better separately to achieve the same goal. There’s a unity in diversity. May we never forget, however, that we’re still brothers and sisters in the family of God. We may do things differently, but we remain united in purpose.

— Leslie Koh

How can humility help in a “harmonious separation”? How can you remain united in purpose even when you disagree with someone on a disputable matter? (Romans 14:1–10).

God, help me to work together with others in unity, and help me to discern when it’s best to serve separately.  

ODB: A Parade of Colors

July 11, 2020 

READ: Revelation 5:7–14 

With your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. Revelation 5:9

 

For decades, London has been one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. In 1933, journalist Glyn Roberts wrote of England’s great capital, “I still think the parade of peoples and colours and tongues is just about the best thing in London.” That “parade” is still in evidence today with the blended smells, sounds, and sights of a global community. The beauty of diversity is part of the breathtaking appeal of one of the world’s greatest cities.

As with any city inhabited by human beings, however, London is not without its problems. Change brings challenges. Cultures sometimes clash. And that is one of the reasons no city built by human hands can compare to the wonder of our eternal home.

When the apostle John was transported into the presence of God, diversity was one of the elements of heavenly worship, as the redeemed sang, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9–10).

Imagine heaven: a parade of every people group in the world celebrating the wonder of being children of the living God—together! As believers in Jesus, may we celebrate that diversity today.

— Bill Crowder

What are the best things about the church being so diverse? What can make that diversity occasionally challenging?

Father, I thank You that no people group is excluded from Your great love. Teach us to truly love one another, as You have so generously loved us.  

ODB: Not Taking Advantage

July 10, 2020 

READ: Acts 16:22–34 

Don’t harm yourself! We are all here! Acts 16:28

 

Several inmates were collecting roadside garbage to reduce their jail time when their supervisor, James, collapsed. They rushed to his aid and realized he was having a medical emergency. One inmate borrowed James’ phone to call for help. The sheriff’s department later thanked the inmates for helping get their supervisor prompt medical attention, especially because they could have instead neglected him—to his great detriment as he was having a stroke—or used the situation to their own advantage to escape. 

The kindness of the inmates’ actions is not unlike those of Paul and Silas when they were imprisoned. After they’d been stripped, beaten, and thrown into prison, an earthquake struck so violently that it loosed their chains and shook the prison doors off their hinges (Acts 16:23–26). When the jailer awoke, he naturally assumed the prisoners had fled, so he prepared to take his own life (to preempt what would’ve been his punishment for their escape). When Paul shouted, “We are all here!” (v. 28) the jailer was so moved by their actions—uncharacteristic of prisoners—that he became curious about the God they worshiped, ultimately coming to believe in Him too (vv. 29–34). 

The way we treat others reveals what we believe and value. When we choose to do good instead of harm, our actions might just prompt them to wonder about the God we know and love.

— Kirsten Holmberg

In what situation can you choose to not take advantage for your own gain? How might that decision benefit someone else?

Loving God, help me to make choices that will draw others to You.  

ODB: The Foolish Way of New Life

July 9, 2020 

READ: 1 Corinthians 1:20–31 

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

 

Some things just don’t make sense until you experience them. When I was pregnant with my first child, I read multiple books about childbirth and listened to dozens of women tell their stories of labor and delivery. But I still couldn’t really imagine what the experience would be like. What my body was going to do seemed impossible! 

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that birth into God’s kingdom, the salvation that God offers us through Christ, seems equally incomprehensible to those who haven’t experienced it. It sounds like “foolishness” to say that salvation could come through a cross—a death marked by weakness, defeat, and humiliation. Yet this “foolishness” was the salvation that Paul preached! 

It wasn’t what anyone could have imagined it would be like. Some people thought that salvation would come through a strong political leader or a miraculous sign. Others thought that their own academic or philosophical achievements would be their salvation (1 Corinthians 1:22). But God surprised everyone by bringing salvation in a way that would only make sense to those who believed, to those who experienced it.

God took something shameful and weak—death on a cross—and made it the foundation of wisdom and power. God does the unimaginable. He chooses the weak and foolish things of the world to shame the wise (v. 27). 

And His surprising, confounding ways are always the best ways.

— Amy Peterson

How is God surprising you today? Why is it true that God’s ways are better than your ways?

God, with Isaiah I pray, as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are Your ways higher than my ways.  

7 Highly Effective Habits To Keep In The New Normal

Title: 7 Highly Effective Habits To Keep In The New Normal Artwork by: YMI X Wesley Totherow (@letterow) Description: Time in lockdown has been unexpectedly fruitful for some of us. With the hours and days stretching endlessly before us, many of us have sought out new hobbies or cultivated new habits that we probably wouldn’t have even thought […]