Entries by YMI

ODB: Demonstrating Grace

January 22, 2020 

READ: Micah 7:18–20 

You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19

 

“In moments where tragedy happens or even hurt, there are opportunities to demonstrate grace or to exact vengeance,” the recently bereaved man remarked. “I chose to demonstrate grace.” Pastor Erik Fitzgerald’s wife had been killed in a car accident caused by an exhausted firefighter who fell asleep while driving home, and legal prosecutors wanted to know whether he would seek the maximum sentence. The pastor chose to practice the forgiveness he often preached about. To the surprise of both him and the firefighter, the men eventually became friends.

Pastor Erik was living out of the grace he’d received from God, who’d forgiven him all of his sins. Through his actions he echoed the words of the prophet Micah, who praised God for pardoning sin and forgiving when we do wrong (Micah 7:18). The prophet uses wonderfully visual language to show just how far God goes in forgiving His people, saying that He will “tread our sins underfoot” and hurl our wrongdoings into the deep sea (v. 19). The firefighter received a gift of freedom that day, which brought him closer to God.

Whatever difficulty we face, we know that God reaches out to us with loving, open arms, welcoming us into His safe embrace. He “delights to show mercy” (v. 18). As we receive His love and grace, He gives us the strength to forgive those who hurt us—even as Pastor Erik did.

— Amy Boucher Pye

How do you respond to this story of amazing forgiveness? Can you think of someone you need to forgive? If so, ask God to help you.

Father God, You love us without ceasing, and You delight to forgive us when we return to You. Envelop us with Your love, that we might demonstrate grace to those who hurt us.  

Where Was God in My Job-Hunting Struggles?

By the end of my second summer after college, I was still jobless and had moved back in with my parents—something I vowed I would never do.

God Has the Answers

“Let me warn you about systematic theology.” My friend started telling me of her struggles in studying biblical doctrines for the first time.

ODB: Where Are You Headed?

January 21, 2020 

READ: 2 Samuel 12:1–14 

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” 2 Samuel 12:7

 

In northern Thailand, the Wild Boars youth soccer team decided to explore a cave together. After an hour they turned to go back and found that the entrance to the cave was flooded. Rising water pushed them deeper into the cave, day after day, until they were finally trapped more than two miles (four kilometers) inside. When they were heroically rescued two weeks later, many wondered how they had become so hopelessly trapped. Answer: one step at a time.

In Israel, Nathan confronted David for killing his loyal soldier, Uriah. How did the man “after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) become guilty of murder? One step at a time. David didn’t go from zero to murder in one afternoon. He warmed up to it, over time, as one bad decision bled into others. It started with a second glance that turned into a lustful stare. He abused his kingly power by sending for Bathsheba, then tried to cover up her pregnancy by calling her husband home from the front. When Uriah refused to visit his wife while his comrades were at war, David decided he would have to die.

We may not be guilty of murder or trapped in a cave of our own making, but we’re either moving toward Jesus or toward trouble. Big problems don’t develop overnight. They break upon us gradually, one step at a time.

— Mike Wittmer

What decision can you make right now to move toward Jesus and away from trouble? What must you do to confirm this decision?

Jesus, I’m running to You!  

Stay Awake

A German bank employee was in the middle of transferring 62.40 euros from a customer’s bank account when he suddenly nodded off.

ODB: Clean Containers

January 20, 2020 

READ: 1 Peter 4:7–11 

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. Proverbs 10:12

 

“Hatred corrodes the container that carries it.” These words were spoken by former Senator Alan Simpson at the funeral of George H. W. Bush. Attempting to describe his dear friend’s kindness, Senator Simpson recalled how the forty-first president of the United States embraced humor and love rather than hatred in his professional leadership and personal relationships.

I relate to the senator’s quote, don’t you? Oh, the damage done to me when I harbor hatred!

Medical research reveals the damage done to our bodies when we cling to the negative or release bursts of anger. Our blood pressure rises. Our hearts pound. Our spirits sag. Our containers corrode.

In Proverbs 10:12, King Solomon observes, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” The conflict that results from hatred here is a blood feud between rivaling peoples of different tribes and races. Such hatred fuels the drive for revenge so that people who despise each other can’t connect.

By contrast, God’s way of love covers—draws a veil over, conceals, or forgives—all wrongs. That doesn’t mean we overlook errors or enable a wrongdoer. But we don’t nurse the wrong when someone is truly remorseful. And if they never apologize, we still release our feelings to God. We who know the Great Lover are to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

— Elisa Morgan

What things cause you to hate? How might the hard-hearted heat of hostility eat away at our personal joy and our world’s peace?

O God, help me surrender to Your great love that covers all sins and makes me into a clean container in which You dwell in love.  

True Conviction

“But how are we going to go on without you?” my youth group student asked on my last day as the pastor.

ODB: When God Intervenes

January 19, 2020 

READ: Numbers 23:13–23 

Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm. Psalm 105:15

 

In a poem titled “This Child Is Beloved,” Omawumi Efueye, known affectionately as Pastor O, writes about his parents’ attempts to end the pregnancy that would result in his birth. After several unusual events that prevented them from aborting him, they decided to welcome their child instead. The knowledge of God’s preservation of his life motivated Omawumi to give up a lucrative career in favor of full-time ministry. Today, he faithfully pastors a London church.

Like Pastor O, the Israelites experienced God’s intervention at a vulnerable time in their history. While traveling through the wilderness, they came within sight of King Balak of Moab. Terrified of their conquests and their vast population, Balak engaged a seer named Balaam to place a curse on the unsuspecting travelers (Numbers 22:2–6).

But something amazing happened. Whenever Balaam opened his mouth to curse, a blessing issued instead. “I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it,” he declared. “No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The Lord their God is with them; . . . God brought them out of Egypt” (Numbers 23:20–22). God preserved the Israelites from a battle they didn’t even know was raging!

Whether we see it or not, God still watches over His people today. May we worship in gratitude and awe the One who calls us blessed.

— Remi Oyedele

How often do you stop to consider the daily protection God extends over you? What does the knowledge that He saves you from unseen dangers mean to you?

Father in heaven, forgive us for the many times we take Your care and protection for granted. Give us eyes to see how much You bless us.  

Singing Is Praying

Sometimes we can feel guilty about our prayer lives. No matter how much we pray, we’re sure it’s never enough.