Entries by YMI

ODB: God’s Molded Instruments

September 15, 2021 

READ: Isaiah 64:5–9 

We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

 

Considered one of the greatest video games ever made, Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has sold more than seven million copies worldwide. It’s also popularized the ocarina, a tiny, ancient, potato-shaped musical instrument made of clay.

The ocarina doesn’t look like much of a musical instrument. However, when it’s played—by blowing into its mouthpiece and covering various holes around its misshapen body—it produces a strikingly serene and hauntingly hopeful sound. 

The ocarina’s maker took a lump of clay, applied pressure and heat to it, and transformed it into an amazing musical instrument. I see a picture of God and us here. Isaiah 64:6, 8–9 tells us: “All of us have become like one who is unclean. . . . Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter. . . . Do not be angry beyond measure.” The prophet was saying: God, You’re in charge. We’re all sinful. Shape us into beautiful instruments for You.

That’s exactly what God does! In His mercy, He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sin, and now He’s shaping and transforming us as we walk in step with His Spirit every day. Just as the ocarina maker’s breath flows through the instrument to produce beautiful music, God works through us—His molded instruments—to accomplish His beautiful will: to be more and more like Jesus (Romans 8:29).

— Ruth Wan

How can knowing that you’re a recipient of God’s mercy affect what you think, say, and do today? How can you submit yourself to His transformation?

Father, thank You for saving me and transforming me so that I’ll become more like Your Son, Jesus. Teach me to submit to Your Spirit’s work of transforming me.  

ODB: Outside the Camp

September 14, 2021 

READ: Hebrews 13:11–16 

Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Hebrews 13:12

 

Friday was market day in the rural town in Ghana where I grew up. After all these years, I still recall one particular vendor. Her fingers and toes eroded by Hansen’s disease (leprosy), she would crouch on her mat and scoop her produce with a hollowed-out gourd. Some avoided her. My mother made it a point to buy from her regularly. I saw her only on market days. Then she would disappear outside the town.

In the time of the ancient Israelites, diseases like leprosy meant living “outside the camp.” It was a forlorn existence. Israelite law said of such people, “They must live alone” (Leviticus 13:46). Outside the camp was also where the carcasses of the sacrificial bulls were burned (4:12). Outside the camp was not where you wanted to be.

This harsh reality breathes life into the statement about Jesus in Hebrews 13: “Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore” (v. 13). Jesus was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem, a significant point when we study the Hebrew sacrificial system.

We want to be popular, to be honored, to live comfortable lives. But God calls us to go “outside the camp”—where the disgrace is. That’s where we’ll find the vendor with Hansen’s disease. That’s where we’ll find people the world has rejected. That’s where we’ll find Jesus.

— Tim Gustafson

How do you initially react to outsiders and misfits? In what practical way might you go to Jesus “outside the camp”?

Thank You, Jesus, that You don’t show any favoritism. Thank You for going outside the camp for me.  

ODB: A Living Document

September 13, 2021 

READ: Psalm 1 

Blessed is the one . . . whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. Psalm 1:1–2

 

In memorializing his grandfather’s work, Peter Croft wrote, “It is my deepest desire for the person who picks up their Bible, whatever version they use, to not only understand but experience the scriptures as living documents, just as relevant, dangerous, and exciting now as they were those thousands of years ago.” Peter’s grandfather was J.B. Phillips, a youth minister who undertook a new paraphrase of the Bible in English during World War II in order to make it come alive to students at his church.

Like Phillips’ students, we face barriers to reading and experiencing Scripture, and not necessarily because of our Bible translation. We may lack time, discipline, or the right tools for understanding. But Psalm 1 tells us that “Blessed is the one . . . whose delight is in the law of the Lord” (vv. 1–2). Meditating on Scripture daily allows us to “prosper” in all seasons, no matter what hardship we’re facing.

How do you view your Bible? It’s still relevant with insight for living today, still dangerous in its call to believe and follow Jesus, still exciting in the intimate knowledge of God and humanity that it imparts. It’s like a stream of water (v. 3) that provides the sustenance we need daily. Today, let’s lean in—make time, get the right tools, and ask God to help us experience Scripture as a living document.

— Karen Pimpo

What barriers do you face when reading the Bible? How can you make space to listen to God’s voice?

God, help me experience Scripture as a living document today.  

ODB: A Great Act of Love

September 12, 2021 

READ: Romans 5:12–19 

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. Romans 5:18

 

In Oregon’s Malheur National Forest, a fungus popularly known as the honey mushroom spreads through tree roots across 2,200 acres, making it the largest living organism ever found. It’s been “weaving its black shoestring filaments” through the forest for more than two millennia, killing trees as it grows. Its shoestring filaments, called “rhizomorphs,” tunnel as deep as ten feet into the soil. And although the organism is incredibly large, it began with a single microscopic spore!

The Bible tells us of a single act of disobedience that caused widespread condemnation and a single act of obedience that reversed it. The apostle Paul contrasted two individuals—Adam and Jesus (Romans 5:14–15). Adam’s sin brought condemnation and death “to all people” (v. 12). Through one act of disobedience, all people were made sinners and stood condemned before God (v. 17). But He had a means of dealing with humanity’s sin problem. Through the righteous act of Jesus on the cross, God provides eternal life and a right standing before Him. Christ’s act of love and obedience was powerful enough to overcome Adam’s one act of disobedience—providing “life for all people” (v. 18).

Through His death on the cross, Jesus offers eternal life to anyone who puts their faith in Him. If you haven’t received His forgiveness and salvation, may you do so today. If you’re already a believer, praise Him for what He’s done by His great act of love!

— Marvin Williams

What do the single acts of Adam and Jesus tell you about the impact of sin? How does Jesus’ sacrifice ignite or renew your desire to live a life that honors Him?  

God, thank You for providing salvation and eternal life through Jesus! Help me to reveal Your saving way to others.  

ODB: From Wisdom to Joy

September 11, 2021 

READ: Proverbs 3:13–18 

[Wisdom] will guide you down delightful paths. Proverbs 3:17 nlt

 

The phone rang and I picked it up without delay. Calling was the oldest member of our church family—a vibrant, hard-working woman who was nearly one hundred years old. Putting the final touches on her latest book, she asked me some writing questions to help her cross the finish line. As always, however, I soon was asking her questions—about life, work, love, family. Her many lessons from a long life sparkled with wisdom. She told me, “Pace yourself.” And soon we were laughing about times she’d forgotten to do that—her wonderful stories all seasoned with true joy.

Wisdom leads to joy, the Bible teaches. “Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding” (Proverbs 3:13 nlt). We find that this path—from wisdom to joy—is a biblical virtue, indeed. “For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy” (Proverbs 2:10 nlt). “God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him” (Ecclesiastes 2:26 nlt). Wisdom “will guide you down delightful paths,” adds Proverbs 3:17 (nlt).

Reflecting on the matters of life, author C. S. Lewis declared that “joy is the serious business of heaven.” The path there, however, is paved with wisdom. My church friend, who lived to be 107, would agree. She walked a wise, joyful pace to the King.

— Patricia Raybon

What paths have you taken in trying to find joy? How can wisdom lead you to joy?

When I might take a rocky road, loving God, please point me back to Your path of wisdom and joy.
Learn more about joy at DiscoverTheWord.org/series/fight-back-with-joy/.

ODB: Like a Symphony

September 10, 2021 

READ: Philippians 2:1–11 

Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:2

 

I surprised my wife with concert tickets to listen to a performer she’d always wanted to see. The gifted singer was accompanied by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and the setting was the matchless venue at Red Rocks—an open-air amphitheater built between two 300-foot rock formations at more than 6,000 feet above sea level. The orchestra played a number of well-loved classical songs and folk tunes. Their final number was a fresh treatment of the classic hymn “Amazing Grace.” The beautiful, harmonized arrangement took our breath away!

There’s something beautiful about harmony—individual instruments playing together in a way that creates a bigger and more layered sonic landscape. The apostle Paul pointed to the beauty of harmony when he told the Philippians to be “like-minded,” have “the same love,” and be “one in spirit and . . . mind” (Philippians 2:2). He wasn’t asking them to become identical but to embrace the humble attitude and self-giving love of Jesus. The gospel, as Paul well knew and taught, doesn’t erase our distinctions, but it can eliminate our divisions.

It’s also interesting that many scholars believe Paul’s words here (vv. 6–11) are a prelude to an early hymn. Here’s the point: When we allow the Holy Spirit to work through our distinct lives and contexts, making us more like Jesus, together we become a symphony that reverberates with a humble Christlike love.

— Glenn Packiam

Who could use some encouragement from you today? How could you put the interests of others above your own, just as Jesus did for us?  

Dear Jesus, thank You for saving me. May Your Spirit transform me into Your image. In my attitude and actions, help me to take on Your humility and sacrificial love. May it result in a greater unity with other believers in my life.