Entries by YMI

ODB: No Longer Yourself

February 27, 2021 

READ: Galatians 2:14–21 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

 

In the summer of 1859, Monsieur Charles Blondin became the first person to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope—something he would go on to do hundreds of times. Once he did it with his manager Harry Colcord on his back. Blondin gave Colcord these instructions: “Look up, Harry . . . you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. . . . If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself. If you do, we will both go to our death.”

Paul, in essence, said to the Galatian believers: You can’t walk the line of living a life that is pleasing to God apart from faith in Christ. But here’s the good news—you don’t have to! No amount of attempting to earn our way to God will ever cut it. So are we passive in our salvation? No! Our invitation is to cling to Christ. Clinging to Jesus means putting to death an old, independent way of living; it’s as if we ourselves have died. Yet, we go on living. But “the life [we] now live in the body, [we] live by faith in the Son of God, who loved [us] and gave himself for [us]” (Galatians 2:20).

Where are we trying to walk the tightrope today? God hasn’t called us to walk out on the rope to Him; He’s called us to cling to Him and walk this life with Him.

— Glenn Packiam

How can you stop trying to please God on your own? Where do you need to cling to Jesus today, trusting His righteousness?

Dear Jesus, thank You for doing for me what I could never do for myself. I turn away from trying to please You on my own. I’m so glad I don’t need to earn Your love.  

ODB: Facing Fear

February 26, 2021 

READ: Psalm 56:3–11 

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3

 

Warren moved to a small town to pastor a church. After his ministry had some initial success, one of the locals turned on him. Concocting a story accusing Warren of horrendous acts, the man took the story to the local newspaper and even printed his accusations on pamphlets to distribute to local residents by mail. Warren and his wife started praying hard. If the lie was believed, their lives would be upended.

King David once experienced something similar. He faced an attack of slander by an enemy. “All day long they twist my words,” he said, “all their schemes are for my ruin” (Psalm 56:5). This sustained assault left him fearful and tearful (v. 8). But in the midst of the battle, he prayed this powerful prayer: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. . . . What can mere mortals do to me?” (vv. 3–4).

David’s prayer can be a model for us today. When I am afraid—in times of fear or accusation, we turn to God. I put my trust in you—we place our battle in God’s powerful hands. What can mere mortals do to me?—facing the situation with Him, we remember how limited the powers against us really are.

The newspaper ignored the story about Warren. For some reason, the pamphlets were never distributed. What battle do you fear today? Talk to God. He’s willing to fight it with you.

— Sheridan Voysey

What real fears do you face? How can David’s prayer help you deal with them?

Loving God, I’m afraid—and so today I put my trust in You. What can mere mortals do to me when You’re fighting for me? Thank You for the coming victory.
For help in choosing hope instead of fear, read

ODB: To Be Human

February 25, 2021 

READ: Matthew 23:37–24:2 

Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. Matthew 23:37

 

“Mr. Singerman, why are you crying?” asked twelve-year-old Albert as he watched the master craftsman construct a wooden box.

“I cry,” he said, “because my father cried, and because my grandfather cried.” The woodworker’s answer to his young apprentice provides a tender moment in an episode of Little House on the Prairie. “Tears,” explained Mr. Singerman, “come with the making of a coffin.”

“Some men don’t cry because they fear it is a sign of weakness,” he said. “I was taught that a man is a man because he can cry.”

Emotion must have welled up in the eyes of Jesus as He compared His concern for Jerusalem to the care of a mother hen for her chicks (Matthew 23:37). His disciples were often confused by what they saw in His eyes or heard in His stories. His idea of what it meant to be strong was different. It happened again as they walked with Him from the temple. Calling His attention to the massive stone walls and magnificent decor of their place of worship (24:1), the disciples noted the strength of human accomplishment. Jesus saw a temple that would be leveled in ad 70.

Christ shows us that healthy people know when to cry and why. He cried because His Father cares and His Spirit groans for children who couldn’t yet see what breaks His heart.

— Mart DeHaan

In what situations in your life might you be avoiding grief? How can your faith in a Savior who cries (John 11:35) help you express your grief in a healthy way?

Father, please replace any cold illusions of strength I cling to with a growing understanding of the cares and concerns that break Your heart for children like me.   

ODB: Never Alone

February 24, 2021 

READ: Ecclesiastes 4:8–12 

Two are better than one . . . If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Ecclesiastes 4:9–10

 

“It can be an affliction more harrowing than homelessness, hunger or disease,” wrote Maggie Fergusson in The Economist’s 1843 magazine. Her subject? Loneliness. Fergusson chronicled the increasing rates of loneliness, irrespective of one’s social or economic status, using heart-wrenching examples of what it feels like to be lonely.

The hurt of feeling alone isn’t new to our day. Indeed, the pain of isolation echoes off the pages of the ancient book of Ecclesiastes. Often attributed to King Solomon, the book captures the sorrow of those who seem to lack any meaningful relationships (4:7–8). The speaker lamented that it’s possible to acquire significant wealth and yet experience no value from it because there’s no one to share it with.

But the speaker also recognized the beauty of companionship, writing that friends help you accomplish more than you could achieve on your own (v. 9); companions help in times of need (v. 10); partners bring comfort (v. 11); and friends can provide protection in difficult situations (v. 12).

Loneliness is a significant struggle—God created us to offer and receive the benefits of friendship and community. If you’re feeling alone, pray that God would help you form meaningful connections with others. In the meantime, find encouragement in the reality that the believer is never truly alone because Jesus’ Spirit is always with us (Matthew 28:20).

— Lisa M. Samra

How might you reach out to someone who’s lonely? How have you experienced the blessing of God’s Spirit with you when you’ve felt alone?

Heavenly Father, when I feel lonely, give me courage to reach out to others with an offer of friendship.   

ODB: Turn on the Light

February 23, 2021 

READ: Matthew 5:14–16 

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

 

As my husband and I prepared for a cross-country move, I wanted to ensure that we kept in touch with our grown sons. I found a unique gift, friendship lamps connected by wireless internet, which can be turned on remotely. When I gave the lamps to my sons, I explained that their lamps will turn on when I touch my lamp—to provide a shining reminder of my love and ongoing prayers. No matter how great the distance between us, a tap on their lamps would trigger a light in our home too. Though we knew nothing could replace our more personal moments of connection, we could be encouraged by knowing we’re loved and prayed for every time we turned on those lights.

All God’s children have the privilege of being light-sharers powered by the Holy Spirit. We’re designed to live as radiant beacons of God’s everlasting hope and unconditional love. When we’re sharing the gospel and serving others in the name of Jesus, we become brilliant spotlights and living testimonies. Every good deed, kind smile, gentle word of encouragement, and heartfelt prayer produces a beaming reminder of God’s faithfulness and His unconditional and life-transforming love (Matthew 5:14–16).

Wherever God leads us, and however we serve Him, we can be used by Him to help others shine His light. As God, by His Spirit, provides the true illumination, we can reflect the light and love of His presence.

— Xochitl Dixon

How can you be a light for Christ, intentionally expressing His love to those in your sphere of influence this week? How can you shine a light on God’s love as you serve people who don’t know Him?

Loving Father, please fuel me with Your perfect truth and love so I can shine a spotlight on You by loving You and others wherever I go.  

ODB: Like Jesus

February 22, 2021 

READ: Romans 8:22–30 

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Romans 8:29

 

As a boy, theologian Bruce Ware was frustrated that 1 Peter 2:21–23 calls us to be like Jesus. Ware wrote of his youthful exasperation in his book The Man Christ Jesus. “Not fair, I determined. Especially when the passage says to follow in the steps of one ‘who did no sin.’ This was totally outlandish . . . . I just couldn’t see how God could really mean for us to take it seriously.”

I understand why Ware would find such a biblical challenge so daunting! An old chorus says, “To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus. My desire, to be like Him.” But as Ware rightly noted, we are incapable of doing that. Left to ourselves, we could never become like Jesus.

However, we’re not left to ourselves. The Holy Spirit has been given to the child of God, in part so that Christ can be formed in us (Galatians 4:19). So it should come as no surprise that in Paul’s great chapter on the Spirit we read, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). God will see His work completed in us. And He does it through the Spirit of Jesus living in us.

As we yield to the Spirit’s work in us, we truly become more like Jesus. How comforting to know that’s God’s great desire for us!

— Bill Crowder

What attribute of the fruit of the Spirit would you like to live out to a greater degree? (see Galatians 5:22–23). What will help you do so?

Father, I long to be more like Your Son but so often fall short in word, thought, or deed. Forgive me, and help me to yield to the work of Your Spirit so that Jesus might be formed in me.
For further study, read Free in the S 

ODB: Unimaginable Promises

February 21, 2021 

READ: 2 Peter 1:2–8 

He has given us his very great and precious promises. 2 Peter 1:4

 

In our moments of greatest failure, it can be easy to believe it’s too late for us, that we’ve lost our chance at a life of purpose and worth. That’s how Elias, a former inmate at a maximum-security prison in New York, described feeling as a prisoner. “I had broken . . . promises, the promise of my own future, the promise of what I could be.”

It was Bard College’s “Prison Initiative” college degree program that began to transform Elias’ life. While in the program, he participated on a debate team, which in 2015 debated a team from Harvard—and won. For Elias, being “part of the team . . . [was] a way of proving that these promises weren’t completely lost.”

A similar transformation happens in our hearts when we begin to understand that the good news of God’s love in Jesus is good news for us too. It’s not too late, we begin to realize with wonder. God still has a future for me.

And it’s a future that can neither be earned nor forfeited, dependent only on God’s extravagant grace and power (2 Peter 1:2–3). A future where we’re set free from the despair in the world and in our hearts into one filled with His “glory and goodness” (v. 3). A future secure in Christ’s unimaginable promises (v. 4); and a future transformed into the “freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

— Monica La Rose

Why can it be difficult for us to accept “unearned” grace and love? How does it touch your heart to consider that in God’s eyes you have a future filled with unimaginable beauty?

Jesus, some days all I can see is the ways I’ve disappointed myself and others, the ways I’ve broken the future I’ve dreamed of. Help me to see the unchanging beauty of the future I find in You.   

ODB: Strengthened by Grace

February 20, 2021 

READ: 2 Timothy 2:1–4 

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:1

 

During the American Civil War, the penalty for desertion was execution. But the Union armies rarely executed deserters because their commander-in-chief, Abraham Lincoln, pardoned nearly all of them. This infuriated Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War, who believed that Lincoln’s leniency only enticed would-be deserters. But Lincoln empathized with soldiers who had lost their nerve and who had given in to their fear in the heat of battle. And his empathy endeared him to his soldiers. They loved their “Father Abraham,” and their affection led the soldiers to want to serve Lincoln all the more.

When Paul calls Timothy to join him in “suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3), he calls him to a tough job description. A soldier is to be completely dedicated, hard-working, and selfless. He’s to serve his commanding officer, Jesus, wholeheartedly. But in reality, we sometimes fail to be His good soldiers. We don’t always serve Him faithfully. And so Paul’s opening phrase is important: “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (v. 1). Our Savior is full of grace. He empathizes with our weaknesses and forgives our failures (Hebrews 4:15). And just as the Union soldiers were encouraged by Lincoln’s compassion, so believers are strengthened by the grace of Jesus. We want to serve Him all the more because we know He loves us.

— Con Campbell

How can the grace of Christ become a source of strength for you to serve Him? What does it mean for you to suffer for Jesus?

Dear God, please strengthen me in the grace of Christ that I may serve Him faithfully.  

ODB: We’re Not God

February 19, 2021 

READ: Ezekiel 28:1–10 

In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god.” Ezekiel 28:2

 

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis recommended asking ourselves some questions to find out if we’re proud: “How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, . . . or patronize me, or show off?” Lewis saw pride as a vice of the “utmost evil” and the chief cause of misery in homes and nations. He called it a “spiritual cancer” that eats up the very possibility of love, contentment, and even common sense.

Pride has been a problem throughout the ages. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God warned the leader of the powerful coastal city of Tyre against his pride. He said the king’s pride would result in his downfall: “Because you think you are . . . as wise as a god, I am going to bring foreigners against you” (Ezekiel 28:6–7). Then he would know he wasn’t a god, but a mortal (v. 9).

In contrast to pride is humility, which Lewis named as a virtue we receive through knowing God. Lewis said that as we get in touch with Him, we become “delightedly humble,” feeling relieved to be rid of the silly nonsense about our own dignity that previously made us restless and unhappy.

The more we worship God, the more we’ll know Him and the more we can humble ourselves before Him. May we be those who love and serve with joy and humility.

— Amy Boucher Pye

How did you answer Lewis’ questions about whether or not you’re proud? Did that surprise you? Why or why not?

Almighty God, help me to revel in my identity as one You created, knowing You are great and mighty and yet You love me.