Entries by YMI

A Heart of Gratitude

In his memoir Townie, novelist Andre Dubus III shared that his father, also a renowned writer, would write every single morning.

ODB: Giving Thanks Always

November 26, 2020 

READ: Isaiah 12 

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Isaiah 12:4

 

In the seventeenth century, Martin Rinkart served as a clergyman in Saxony, Germany, for more than thirty years during times of war and plague. One year he conducted more than 4,000 funerals, including his wife’s, and at times food was so scarce that his family went hungry. Although he could have despaired, his faith in God remained strong and he gave thanks continually. In fact, he poured his gratitude into “Nun danket alle Gott,” the song that became the well-loved English hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God.”

Rinkart followed the example of the prophet Isaiah, who instructed God’s people to give thanks at all times, including when they’d disappointed God (Isaiah 12:1) or when enemies oppressed them. Even then they were to exalt God’s name, making “known among the nations what he has done” (v. 4).

We might give thanks easily during harvest celebrations such as Thanksgiving, when we’re enjoying an abundant feast with friends and family. But can we express our gratitude to God in difficult times, such as when we’re missing someone from our table or when we’re struggling with our finances or when we’re locked in conflict with one close to us?

Let’s echo Pastor Rinkart, joining hearts and voices as we give praise and thanks to “the eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore.” We can “sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things” (v. 5).

— Amy Boucher Pye

In times of hardship, how do you turn to thanksgiving and praise? What role does God through His Holy Spirit play in this?

Father God, I thank You for Your amazing work in my life. You love me unendingly, more than I can even express.  

Childlike Faith

Every Sunday morning in the foyer, our eyes meet. Her eyes are full of joy, twinkling.

ODB: Anyone and Everyone

November 25, 2020 

READ: Romans 10:5–15 

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13

 

The country of El Salvador has honored Jesus by placing a sculpture of Him in the center of its capital city. Although the monument resides in the middle of a busy traffic circle, its height makes it easy to see, and its name—The Divine Savior of the World—communicates reverence for His supernatural status.

The monument’s name affirms what the Bible says about Jesus (1 John 4:14). He’s the One who offers salvation to everyone. Christ crosses cultural boundaries and accepts any sincere person who wants to know Him, regardless of age, education, ethnicity, past sin, or social status.

The apostle Paul traveled the ancient world telling people about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He shared this good news with political and religious authorities, soldiers, Jews, gentiles, men, women, and children. Paul explained that a person could begin a relationship with Christ by declaring “Jesus is Lord” and believing that God had indeed raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). He said, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame. . . . Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (vv. 11, 13).

Jesus isn’t a distant image to be honored; we must have a person-to-person connection with Him through faith. May we see the value of the salvation He offers and move forward into a spiritual relationship with Him today.

— Jennifer Benson Schuldt

How can you get closer to Jesus today? Do you follow Paul’s “anyone and everyone” approach to sharing the good news about Christ?

Jesus, thank You for loving everyone and offering eternal life to anyone who truly wants to know You. Help me to represent You well in the world today.  

Clean, Pure Water

A small, gurgling stream in the forest. Silky ripples, floating leaves, water flowing smoothly around rocks and branches.

ODB: Taught by Turkeys

November 24, 2020 

READ: Matthew 6:25–34 

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Matthew 6:26

 

Do you know what a group of turkeys is called? It’s called a rafter. Why am I writing about turkeys? Because I’ve just returned from a weekend at a mountain cabin. Each day, I marveled at the train of turkeys parading past our porch.

I’d never turkey-watched before. They scratched fiercely with spectacular talons. Then they hunted and pecked at the ground. Eating, I assume. (Since this was my first turkey-observation time, I wasn’t 100 percent positive.) The scrawny scrubs in the area didn’t look like they could sustain anything. Yet here were these turkeys, a dozen of them, all of which looked delectably plump.

Watching those well-fed turkeys brought to mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Jesus uses God’s provision for seemingly worthless birds to remind us of His care for us. If a bird’s life matters, how much more does ours? Jesus then contrasts fretting about our daily needs (vv. 27–31) with a life in which we “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (v. 33), one in which we’re confident of His rich provision for our needs. Because if God can care for that rafter of wild turkeys, He can certainly look after you and me.

— Adam R. Holz

Where have you seen God provide for something that you were worrying about? How might remembering and reflecting on His provision in the past help you not to be anxious in the future?

Father, sometimes I get scared. I worry. I struggle to trust. Thank You for Your care for me. Help me to remember Your provision in the past so I’m better able to trust You with future fears.  

Hopeful Reminders in the Midst of My Struggles

It’s easy to wonder where God is in the midst of challenging circumstances. But He has not abandoned us. God did not promise that everything would be easy in life, but He reminds us that when we are faced with difficulty, we can seek His face. He shows up, even in hard times.

The Art of Joy

I recently called a friend who has endured more than his share of hardship and weariness.

ODB: Space for Me

November 23, 2020 

READ: Mark 3:13–19 

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. Mark 3:13

 

He was an aging military veteran, rough-edged and given to even rougher language. One day a friend cared enough about him to inquire about his spiritual beliefs. The man’s dismissive response came quickly: “God doesn’t have space for someone like me.”

Perhaps that was just part of his “tough-guy” act, but his words couldn’t be further from the truth! God creates space especially for the rough, the guilt-ridden, and the excluded to belong and thrive in His community. This was obvious from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, when He made some surprising choices for His disciples. First, He chose several fishermen from Galilee—the “wrong side of the tracks” from the perspective of those in Jerusalem. He also selected a tax collector, Matthew, whose profession included extorting from his oppressed countrymen. Then, for good measure, Jesus invited the “other” Simon—“the Zealot” (Mark 3:18).

We don’t know much about this Simon (he isn’t Simon Peter), but we do know about the Zealots. They hated traitors like Matthew, who got rich by collaborating with the despised Romans. Yet with divine irony, Jesus chose Simon along with Matthew, brought them together, and blended them into His team.

Don’t write anyone off as too “bad” for Jesus. After all, He said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). He has plenty of space for the tough cases—people like you and me.

— Tim Gustafson

Who do you know that you think is unlikely to give their life to Jesus? How might you invite them to consider who Christ is and the space He has for them?

Dear Father, thank You that salvation is available to anyone who puts their faith in Jesus.