Entries by YMI

Last Dance

Neuroscientists say our brains are flexible organs that harden over time. When one of our 100 billion neurons sends an electrochemical charge to another neuron, it opens a new path in the brain. If the neuron repeats this signal enough times, the path widens into a road and then a runway. The more we think about something, the more that thought becomes embedded in our brains. It might be easy to change our minds when experiencing a new thought. It’s more difficult when that thought has built a highway in our heads.

A Better Song

In Greek mythology, the island of Sirens was where beautiful temptresses ensnared passing sailors with their sweet songs. The music led the men to the shore where they were shipwrecked and destroyed. Odysseus ordered his men to plug their ears with beeswax, but being curious and to avoid being tempted, he instructed them to bind him to the mast. Upon hearing the song of the Sirens, Odysseus commanded his crew to release him, but they refused and bound him tighter. Jason of the Argonauts, on the other hand, hired a skilled musician to play a tune as his ship sailed within earshot of Sirens. His boat floated by with the crew unaffected by the alluring tunes.

ODB: Dealing with Disagreement

January 6, 2022 

READ: Colossians 3:12–14 

Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

 

The social media powerhouse Twitter created a platform where people all over the world express opinions in short sound bites. In recent years, however, this formula has become more complex as individuals have begun to leverage Twitter as a tool to reprimand others for attitudes and lifestyles they disagree with. Log on to the platform on any given day, and you’ll find the name of at least one person “trending.” Click on that name, and you’ll find millions of people expressing opinions about whatever controversy has emerged.

We’ve learned to publicly criticize everything from the beliefs people hold to the clothes they wear. The reality, however, is that a critical and unloving attitude doesn’t align with who God has called us to be as believers in Jesus. While there will be times when we have to deal with disagreement, the Bible reminds us that as believers we’re to always conduct ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Instead of being harshly critical, even of our enemies, God urges us to “bear with each other and forgive one another if [we have] a grievance” (v. 13).

This treatment isn’t limited to the people whose lifestyles and beliefs we agree with. Even when it’s difficult, may we extend grace and love to everyone we encounter as Christ guides us, recognizing that we’ve been redeemed by His love.

— Kimya Loder

Consider a time when you were quick to criticize a friend or a stranger. What was the result? What could you have done differently to honor God and the individual?

Heavenly Father, I know I fall short of Your glory every day. Thank You for Your unconditional love. Help me strive to be more like You by being patient and gentle with others.  

ODB: Back to the Basics

January 5, 2022 

READ: Ezekiel 45:9–10, 17–20 

Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Ezekiel 45:9

 

Resolutions, it seems, are made to be broken. Some folks poke fun at this reality by proposing New Year’s vows that are—shall we say—attainable. Here are a few from social media:

Wave to fellow motorists at stoplights.

Sign up for a marathon. Don’t run it.

Stop procrastinating—tomorrow.

Get lost without any help from Siri.

Unfriend everyone who posts their workout regimen.

The concept of a fresh start can be serious business, however. The exiled people of Judah desperately needed one. Just over two decades into their seventy-year captivity, God brought encouragement to them through the prophet Ezekiel, promising, “I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob” (Ezekiel 39:25).

But the nation first needed to return to the basics—the instructions God had given to Moses eight hundred years earlier. This included observing a feast at the new year. For the ancient Jewish people, that began in early spring (45:18). A major purpose of their festivals was to remind them of God’s character and His expectations. He told their leaders, “Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right” (v. 9), and he insisted on honesty (v. 10).

The lesson applies to us too. Our faith must be put into practice or it’s worthless (James 2:17). In this new year, as God provides what we need, may we live out our faith by returning to the basics: “Love the Lord your God,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39).

— Tim Gustafson

In what ways do you sense you need to get back to the basics? How will you put this into practice in the new year?

Father, may Your Spirit show me the places where I need to put others before myself. Help me love You with all my heart.  

Through The Fire

The ground smoldered for weeks after the fire. My parents’ farm in South Africa and the entire landscape around it had changed overnight. All that remained was the house and a few blackened trees. As I looked out over the ash-covered land, the sight was heartbreaking. How could this place recover? But then the rains came. As the earth cooled, tiny shoots pushed up between the ash, and within weeks green patchy grass covered the ground. Although altered forever, the farm was alive again. Many trees were lost in the blaze, but some struggled back to life. Soon the mangoes and lemons ripened once more, as delicious as ever.

ODB: Resilient Faith

January 4, 2022 

READ: Matthew 7:24–27 

Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. Matthew 7:26

 

Towering dunes along the north shore of Silver Lake put nearby homes at risk of sinking into shifting sands. Though residents tried moving mounds of sand in efforts to protect their homes, they watched helplessly as well-built houses were buried right before their eyes. As a local sheriff oversaw the cleanup of a recently destroyed cottage, he affirmed the process couldn’t be prevented. No matter how hard homeowners tried to avoid the dangers of these unsteady embankments, the dunes simply couldn’t provide a strong foundational support.

Jesus knew the futility of building a house on sand. After warning the disciples to be wary of false prophets, He assured them that loving obedience demonstrates wisdom (Matthew 7:15–23). He said that everyone who hears His words and “puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (v. 24). The one who hears God’s words and chooses not to put them into practice, however, is “like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (v. 26).

When circumstances feel like shifting sands burying us under the weight of affliction or worries, we can place our hope in Christ, our Rock. He will help us develop resilient faith built on the unshakable foundation of His unchanging character.

— Xochitl Dixon

How does obedience demonstrate your trust in God? In what areas of your life are you standing on the shifting sands of disobedience to Him?

Jesus, please help me develop resilient faith. Empower me to demonstrate my trust through loving obedience to You.  

ODB: When Love Never Ends

January 3, 2022 

READ: Psalm 145:8–20 

The Lord watches over all who love him. Psalm 145:20

 

“Whenever my grandfather took me to the beach,” Sandra reminisced, “he always took off his watch and put it away. One day I asked him why.”

“He smiled and replied, ‘Because I want you to know how important my moments with you are to me. I just want to be with you and let time go by.’ ”

I heard Sandra share that recollection at her grandfather’s funeral. It was one of her favorite memories of their life together. As I reflected on how valued it makes us feel when others take time for us, it brought to mind Scripture’s words on God’s loving care.

God always makes time for us. David prayed in Psalm 145, “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The Lord is near” (vv. 16–18).

God’s goodness and thoughtful attention sustain our lives each moment, providing us with air to breathe and food to eat. Because He is rich in love, the Creator of all things mercifully crafts even the most intricate details of our existence.

God’s love is so deep and unending that in His kindness and mercy He’s even opened the way to eternal life and joy in His presence, as if to say, “I love you so much, I just want to be with you forever, and let time go by.”

— James Banks

How does your availability to others reflect God’s faithful love for them? In what ways can you follow His example by making time for others today?

Father, thank You for Your perfect love. Please help me to praise You for it and to share it with others today.
Read God Is Love.