Entries by YMI

ODB: Of Prayer and Dust and Stars

July 25, 2021 

READ: Genesis 15:1–6 

Look up at the sky and count the stars. Genesis 15:5

 

Lara and Dave desperately wanted a baby, but their physician told them they were unable to have one. Lara confided to a friend: “I found myself having some very honest talks with God.” But it was after one of those “talks” that she and Dave spoke to their pastor, who told them about an adoption ministry at their church. A year later they were blessed with an adopted baby boy.

In Genesis 15, the Bible tells of another honest conversation—this one between Abram and God. God had told him, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am . . . your very great reward” (v. 1). But Abram, uncertain of God’s promises about his future, answered candidly: “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless?” (v. 2).

Earlier God had promised Abram, “I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth” (13:16). Now Abram—in a very human moment—reminded God of that. But note God’s response: He assured Abram by telling him to look up and “count the stars—if indeed you can,” indicating his descendants would be beyond numbering (15:5).

How good is God, not only to allow such candid prayer but also to gently reassure Abram! Later, God would change his name to Abraham (“father of many”). Like Abraham, you and I can openly share our hearts with Him and know that we can trust Him to do what’s best for us and others.

— James Banks

How do you think Abraham felt when God encouraged Him in such a difficult moment? What candid conversation do you need to have with God today?

Loving heavenly Father, thank You for caring about even the most intimate details of my life. Help me to stay close to You in prayer today.  

ODB: God Carries Us

July 24, 2021 

READ: Deuteronomy 1:26–31  

There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place. Deuteronomy 1:31

 

In 2019, Hurricane Dorian overwhelmed the islands of the Bahamas with intense rain, wind, and flooding—the worst natural disaster in the country’s history. As he sheltered at home with his adult son who has cerebral palsy, Brent knew they needed to leave. Even though Brent is blind, he had to save his son. Tenderly, he placed him over his shoulders and stepped into chin-deep water to carry him to safety.

If an earthly father facing a great obstacle is eager to help his son, think of how much more our heavenly Father is concerned about His children. In the Old Testament, Moses recalled how God carried His people even as they experienced the danger of faltering faith. He reminded the Israelites of how God had delivered them, providing food and water in the desert, fighting against their enemies, and guiding the Israelites with pillars of cloud and fire. Meditating on the many ways God acted on their behalf, Moses said, “There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son” (Deuteronomy 1:31).

The Israelites’ journey through the wilderness wasn’t easy, and their faith waned at times. But it was full of evidence of God’s protection and provision. The image of a father carrying a son—tenderly, courageously, confidently—is a wonderful picture of how God cared for Israel. Even when we face challenges that test our faith, we can remember that God’s there carrying us through them.

— 平凱靈

In what ways have you seen God’s provision and protection in your life? How can you face difficulties knowing that God carries you tenderly and confidently?

Loving God, help me remember that You carry me, even when I don’t feel it. Thank You for Your strength and compassion.  

ODB: The Greatest Symphony

July 23, 2021 

READ: 1 Corinthians 12:12–20 

We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body. 1 Corinthians 12:13

 

When BBC Music Magazine asked one hundred fifty-one of the world’s leading conductors to list twenty of what they believed to be the greatest symphonies ever written, Beethoven’s Third, Eroica, came out on top. The work, whose title means “heroic,” was written during the turmoil of the French Revolution. But it also came out of Beethoven’s own struggle as he slowly lost his hearing. The music evokes extreme swings of emotion that express what it means to be human and alive while facing challenges. Through wild swings of happiness, sadness, and eventual triumph Beethoven’s Third Symphony is regarded as a timeless tribute to the human spirit.

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians deserves our attention for similar reasons. Through inspired words rather than musical scores, it rises in blessing (1:4–9), falls in the sadness of soul-crushing conflict (11:17–22), and rises again in the unison of gifted people working together for one another and for the glory of God (12:6­–7).

The difference is that here we see the triumph of our human spirit as a tribute to the Spirit of God. As Paul urges us to experience together the inexpressible love of Christ, he helps us see ourselves as called together by our Father, led by His Son, and inspired by His Spirit—not for noise, but for our contribution to the greatest symphony of all.

— Mart DeHaan

Where do you hear the dissonance of conflict in your own life? Where do you see the symphonic harmonies of love? 

Father, please enable me to see what I can be with others, with my eyes on Your Son, with reliance on Your Spirit, with a growing awareness of what You can do with a noisemaker like me.  

ODB: Seeking God’s Help

July 22, 2021 

READ: 2 Chronicles 20:5–12, 15 

We will stand in your presence . . . and will cry out to you in our distress. 2 Chronicles 20:9

 

For five years in the late 1800s, grasshoppers descended on Minnesota, destroying the crops. Farmers tried trapping the grasshoppers in tar and burning their fields to kill the eggs. Feeling desperate, and on the brink of starvation, many people sought a statewide day of prayer, yearning to seek God’s help together. The governor relented, setting aside April 26 to pray.

In the days after the collective prayer, the weather warmed and the eggs started to come to life. But then four days later a drop in temperature surprised and delighted many, for the freezing temperatures killed the larvae. Minnesotans once again would harvest their crops of corn, wheat, and oats.

Prayer was also behind the saving of God’s people during the reign of King Jehoshaphat. When the king learned that a vast army was coming against him, he called God’s people to pray and fast. The people reminded God how He’d saved them in times past. And Jehoshaphat said that if calamity came upon them, “whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine,” they would cry out to God knowing that He would hear and save them (2 Chronicles 20:9).

God rescued His people from the invading armies, and He hears us when we cry out to Him in distress. Whatever your concern—whether a relationship issue or something threatening from the natural world—lift it to God in prayer. Nothing is too hard for Him.

— Amy Boucher Pye

How has God answered your prayers? What situations in your life or in the world could you commit to Him today?

Creator God, You made the world and all that’s in it. Please restore order and save Your people, whom You love.  

ODB: Authentic Christianity

July 21, 2021 

READ: Matthew 5:3–10 

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. Matthew 5:12

 

I applied for a position in a Christian organization years ago and was presented with a list of legalistic rules having to do with the use of alcohol, tobacco, and certain forms of entertainment. “We expect Christian behavior from our employees” was the explanation. I could agree with this list because I, for reasons mostly unrelated to my faith, didn’t do those things. But my argumentative side thought, Why don’t they have a list about not being arrogant, insensitive, harsh, spiritually indifferent, and critical? None of these were addressed.

Following Jesus can’t be defined by a list of rules. It’s a subtle quality of life that’s difficult to quantify but can best be described as “beautiful.”

The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–10 sum up that beauty: Those who are indwelt by and dependent on the Spirit of Jesus are humble and self-effacing. They’re deeply touched by the suffering of others. They’re gentle and kind. They long for goodness in themselves and in others. They’re merciful to those who struggle and fail. They’re single-minded in their love for Jesus. They’re peaceful and leave behind a legacy of peace. They’re kind to those who misuse them, returning good for evil. And they’re blessed, a word that means “happy” in the deepest sense.

This kind of life attracts the attention of others and belongs to those who come to Jesus and ask Him for it.

— David H. Roper

Which of the attributes from Matthew 5 do you especially need in your life? How can you grow in this?

Spirit of God, please produce these characteristics from the Beatitudes in my life.  

ODB: God’s Power on Display

July 20, 2021 

READ: Job 38:24–38 

What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? Job 38:24

 

It was a lightning storm, and my six-year-old daughter and I were on the floor watching the dazzling display through the glass door. She kept repeating, “Wow! God is so big.” I felt the same way. It was obvious to both of us how small we were, and how powerful God must be. Lines from the book of Job flashed through my mind, “What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?” (Job 38:24).

Job needed to be reminded of God’s power (vv. 34–41). His life had fallen apart. His children were dead. He was broke. He was sick. His friends offered no empathy. His wife encouraged him to abandon his faith (2:9). Eventually, Job asked God, “Why?” (ch. 24) and He responded out of a storm (ch. 38).

God reminded Job of His control over the physical attributes of the world (ch. 38). This comforted him and he responded, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (42:5). In other words, “Now I get it, God! I see that you don’t fit into my box.”

When life falls apart, sometimes the most comforting thing we can do is to lie on the floor and watch the lightning—to be reminded that the God who created the world is big enough and loving enough to take care of us too. We may even start singing our favorite worship songs that tell of the might and greatness of our God.

— 戴丹尔

When was the last time you saw God’s power on display? What went through your mind as you witnessed His bigness?

God, help me see how big You are and to stop trying to fit You into small boxes. Help me to trust that if You’re big enough to create and control lightning, You’re big enough to help me through life’s challenges.  

ODB: Firm Refusal

July 19, 2021 

READ: Daniel 6:10–23 

Daniel . . . still pray[ed] three times a day. Daniel 6:13

 

When the Nazis drafted Franz Jägerstätter during World War II, he completed military basic training but refused to take the required pledge of personal loyalty to Adolf Hitler. Authorities allowed Franz to return to his farm, but they later summoned him to active duty. After seeing Nazi ideology up close and learning of the Jewish genocide, however, Jägerstätter decided his loyalty to God meant he could never fight for the Nazis. He was arrested and sentenced to execution, leaving behind his wife and three daughters.

Over the years, many believers in Jesus—under peril of death—have offered a firm refusal when commanded to disobey God. The story of Daniel is one such story. When a royal edict threatened that anyone “who pray[ed] to any god or human being except [the king]” (Daniel 6:12) would be thrown into the lions’ den, Daniel discarded safety and remained faithful. “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (v. 10). The prophet would bend his knee to God—and only God—no matter the cost.

Sometimes, our choice is clear. Though everyone around us implores us to go along with prevailing opinion—though our own reputation or well-being may be at risk—may we never turn from our obedience to God. Sometimes, even at great cost, all we can offer is a firm refusal.

— Winn Collier

Where are you sensing that obedience to God will require your firm refusal? What might this refusal cost you? What will you gain?

God, I know my loyalty to You will at times mean saying no to others’ expectations or demands. It may cost me dearly. Give me courage.  

ODB: God’s Restoring Ways

July 18, 2021 

READ: Hosea 14 

People will dwell again in his shade; they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like the vine. Hosea 14:7

 

One of the most moving songs in the musical The Greatest Showman is “From Now On.” Sung after the main character comes to some painful self-realizations about the ways he’s wounded family and friends, the song celebrates the joy of coming back home and finding that what we already have is more than enough.

The book of Hosea concludes with a similar tone—one of breathless joy and gratitude at the restoration God makes possible for those who return to Him. Much of the book, which compares the relationship between God and His people to a relationship with an unfaithful spouse, grieves Israel’s failures to love Him and live for Him.

But in chapter 14, Hosea lifts up the promise of God’s boundless love, grace, and restoration—freely available to those who return to Him heartbroken over the ways they’ve abandoned Him (vv. 1–3). “I will heal their waywardness,” God promises, “and love them freely” (v. 4). And what had seemed broken beyond repair will once more find wholeness and abundance, as God’s grace, like dew, causes His people to “blossom like a lily” and “flourish like the grain” (vv. 5–7). 

When we’ve hurt others or taken for granted God’s goodness in our life, it’s easy to assume we’ve forever marred the good gifts we’ve been given. But when we humbly turn to Him, we find His love is always reaching to embrace and restore.

— Monica La Rose

When have you experienced or witnessed restoration beyond what seemed possible? In what areas of your life do you need reassurance of God’s promise to heal and restore?

Loving God and Creator of Life, teach me to trust in Your goodness—not just when I’m good, but all the time.