Entries by YMI

ODB: Remember to Sing

February 18, 2021 

READ: Psalm 147:1–7 

How good it is to sing praises to our God. Psalm 147:1

 

Nancy Gustafson, a retired opera singer, was devastated when she visited her mother and observed her decline from dementia. Her mom no longer recognized her and barely spoke. After several monthly visits, Nancy had an idea. She started singing to her. Her mother’s eyes lit up at the musical sounds, and she began singing too—for twenty minutes! Then Nancy’s mom laughed, joking they were “The Gustafson Family Singers!” The dramatic turnaround suggested the power of music, as some therapists conclude, to evoke lost memories. Singing “old favorites” has also been shown to boost mood, reduce falls, lessen visits to the emergency room, and decrease the need for sedative drugs.

More research is underway on a music-memory link. Yet, as the Bible reveals, the joy that comes from singing is a gift from God—and it’s real. “How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” (Psalm 147:1).

Throughout the Scriptures, in fact, God’s people are urged to lift their voices in songs of praise to Him. “Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things” (Isaiah 12:5). “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him” (Psalm 40:3). Our singing inspires us but also those who hear it. May we all remember: our God is great and worthy of praise.

— Patricia Raybon

What role does singing play in your life? How can you make more time for singing songs of praise with those who are experiencing memory problems?

May I sing praises to You, God. Thank You for so often unlocking the minds of those with memory problems through the beauty and power of song.
To dig deeper, read Psalms: Ancient Prayers for Modern People at

ODB: Desperate Solutions

February 17, 2021 

READ: Isaiah 22:8–13 

You did not . . . have regard for the One who planned it long ago. Isaiah 22:11

 

In the late sixteenth century, William of Orange intentionally flooded much of his nation’s land. The Dutch monarch resorted to such a drastic measure in an attempt to drive out the invading Spaniards. It didn’t work, and a vast swath of prime farmland was lost to the sea. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” they say.

In Isaiah’s day, Jerusalem turned to desperate measures when the Assyrian army threatened them. Creating a water storage system to endure the siege, the people also tore down houses to shore up the city walls. Such tactics may have been prudent, but they neglected the most important step. “You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool,” God said, “but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago” (Isaiah 22:11).

We aren’t likely to encounter a literal army outside our homes today. “The batterings always come in commonplace ways and through commonplace people,” said Oswald Chambers. Yet, such “batterings” are genuine threats. Thankfully, they also bring with them God’s invitation to turn to Him first for what we need.

When life’s irritations and interruptions come, will we see them as opportunities to turn to God? Or will we seek our own desperate solutions?

— Tim Gustafson

What ordinary threats do you face today? What do you need to face them?

Today, loving God, I turn to You first with all of my challenges, large and small.
Download Forty Days of Praying the Word at go.odb.org/40-days.  

ODB: Thinking Differently

February 16, 2021 

READ: Romans 12:1–3 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world. Romans 12:2

 

During college, I spent a good chunk of a summer in Venezuela. The food was astounding, the people delightful, the weather and hospitality beautiful. Within the first day or two, however, I recognized that my views on time management weren’t shared by my new friends. If we planned to have lunch at noon, this meant anywhere between 12:00 and 1:00 p.m. The same for meetings or travel: timeframes were approximations without rigid punctuality. I learned that my idea of “being on time” was far more culturally formed than I’d realized.

All of us are shaped by the cultural values that surround us, usually without us ever noticing. Paul calls this cultural force the “world” (Romans 12:2). Here, “world” doesn’t mean the physical universe, but rather refers to the ways of thinking pervading our existence. It refers to the unquestioned assumptions and guiding ideals handed to us simply because we live in a particular place and time.

Paul warns us to be vigilant to “not conform to the pattern of this world.” Instead, we must be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (v. 2). Rather than passively taking on the ways of thinking and believing that engulf us, we’re called to actively pursue God’s way of thinking and to learn how to understand His “good, pleasing and perfect will” (v. 2). May we learn to follow God rather than every other voice.

— Winn Collier

How would you describe the values and assumptions that surround you? What would it look like for you to not conform to the world’s ways and to instead follow Jesus’ ways?

God, I don’t even recognize my assumptions and values most of the time. Help me to live out Your truth and Your mind in it all.  

ODB: Spitting Image

February 15, 2021 

READ: Colossians 1:15–23 

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Colossians 1:15

 

During an outing, we met a woman who had known my husband’s family since he was a child. She looked from Alan to our son, Xavier. “He’s the spitting image of his daddy,” she said. “Those eyes. That smile. Yep. Looks just like him.” As the woman delighted in acknowledging such a strong resemblance between father and son, she even noted similarities in their personalities. Still, though they are alike in many ways, my son doesn’t reflect his father perfectly.

There’s only one Son—Jesus—who reflects His Father completely. Christ is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). In Him and through Him and for Him all things were created (v. 16). “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (v. 17).

We can spend time in prayer and Bible study, discovering the Father’s character by looking at Jesus—God in the flesh. He invites us to witness His love in action by examining how He interacts with others in Scripture and in our day-to-day living. After surrendering our lives to Christ and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can grow in knowing and trusting our loving Father. He transforms us to reflect His character, so we can live for Him.

What a joy it would be if others could say we look just like Jesus!

— Xochitl Dixon

What character trait of Jesus have you seen cultivated in your life over the last year? What trait would you like to cultivate in the coming year?

Jesus, please help me know You more as You make me more like You!  

ODB: Sending Out an SOS

February 14, 2021 

READ: Psalm 34:1–10 

I sought the Lord, and he answered me. Psalm 34:4

 

When the hut of a settler in a mountainous region of Alaska caught fire, the settler was left without adequate shelter and with few provisions in the coldest state in the US—in the middle of a frigid winter. Three weeks later, the man was finally rescued when an aircraft flew over and spied the large SOS he had stamped out in the snow and darkened with soot.

The psalmist David was certainly in dire straits. He was being pursued by jealous King Saul who sought to kill him. And so he fled to the city of Gath, where he pretended to be insane in order to preserve his life (see 1 Samuel 21). Out of those events emerged Psalm 34, where David cried out in prayer to God and found peace (vv. 4, 6). God heard his pleas and delivered him. 

Are you in a desperate situation and crying out for help? Be assured that God still hears and responds to our desperate prayers today. As with David, He’s attentive to our distress calls and takes away our fears (v. 4)—and sometimes even saves us “out of [our] troubles” (v. 6). 

Scripture invites us to “cast [our] cares on the Lord and he will sustain [us]” (Psalm 55:22). When we turn our difficult circumstances over to God, we can trust that He’ll provide the help we need. We’re secure in His capable hands. 

— Alyson Kieda

When have you felt peace after crying out to God? When has He rescued you from a desperate situation?

Loving Father, thank You for hearing my prayers and bringing comfort, peace—whatever I need most. And thank You especially for rescuing me from my sin.
   

ODB: Something New

February 13, 2021 

READ: Isaiah 43:14–21 

See, I am doing a new thing! . . . I am making . . . streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

 

Farming is difficult in areas that lack fresh water. To help solve this problem, the Seawater Greenhouse company has created something new: “cooling houses” in Somaliland, Africa, and other countries with similar climates. Cooling houses use solar pumps to drizzle saltwater over walls made of corrugated cardboard. As the water moves down each panel, it leaves its salt behind. Much of the remaining fresh water evaporates inside the structure, which becomes a humid place where fruit and vegetable crops can flourish.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God promised to do a “new thing” as He provided “streams in the wasteland” for ancient Israel (Isaiah 43:19). This new thing contrasted with the old thing He had done to rescue His people from the Egyptian army. Remember the Red Sea account? God wanted His people to recall the past but not let it overshadow His current involvement in their lives (v. 18). He said, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness” (v. 19).

While looking to the past can bolster our faith in God’s provision, living in the past can blind us to all the fresh work of God’s Spirit today. We can ask God to show us how He’s currently moving—helping, remaking, and sustaining His people. May this awareness prompt us to partner with Him to meet the needs of others, both near and far. 

— Jennifer Benson Schuldt

What new thing is God doing in your life? How is He using you to touch others’ lives and help make the world a better place?

Dear God, I praise You as the living One who constantly does new things. Help me to trust You to meet my changing needs.  

ODB: A Joyful Celebration

February 12, 2021 

READ: Revelation 19:1–9 

The wedding of the Lamb has come. Revelation 19:7

 

My friend Sharon passed away one year prior to the death of my friend Dave’s teenage daughter Melissa. They both had been tragically killed in car accidents. One night both Sharon and Melissa were in my dream. They giggled and talked as they hung streamers in a large banquet hall and ignored me when I stepped into the room. A long table with white tablecloths had been set with golden plates and goblets. I asked if I could help decorate, but they didn’t seem to hear me and kept working. 

But then Sharon said, “This party is Melissa’s wedding reception.” 

“Who’s the groom?” I asked. 

Neither responded but smiled and looked at each other knowingly. Finally, it dawned on me—it’s Jesus! 

“Jesus is the groom,” I whispered as I woke up. 

My dream brings to mind the joyful celebration believers in Jesus will share together when He returns. It’s portrayed in Revelation as a lavish feast called “the wedding supper of the Lamb” (19:9). John the Baptist, who prepared people for the first coming of Christ, had called Him “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He also referred to Jesus as “the bridegroom” and to himself as the “friend” (like the best man) who waited for Him (3:29). 

On that banquet day and for all eternity we will enjoy unbroken fellowship with Jesus, our groom, and with Sharon and Melissa and all of God’s people.

— Anne Cetas

What does Jesus’ invitation to come to Him for forgiveness and eternal life mean to you? Who could you tell your story to?

I look forward to that day of celebration and seeing You, Jesus. Come quickly.
Read more about Christ’s ultimate triumph in this study of Revelation: ChristianUniversity.org/NT228.  

ODB: The Ticking Watch

February 11, 2021 

READ: Psalm 37:1–7 

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7

 

A group of workers were cutting ice out of a frozen lake and storing it in an icehouse when one of them realized he’d lost his watch in the windowless building. He and his friends searched for it in vain. 

After they gave up, a young boy who’d seen them exit went into the building. Soon, he emerged with the watch. Asked how he’d found it, he replied: “I just sat down and kept quiet, and soon I could hear it ticking.” 

The Bible talks much about the value of being still. And no wonder, for God sometimes speaks in a whisper (1 Kings 19:12). In the busyness of life, it can be hard to hear Him. But if we stop rushing about and spend some quiet time with Him and the Scriptures, we may hear His gentle voice in our thoughts. 

Psalm 37:1–7 assures us that we can trust God to rescue us from the “wicked schemes” of evil people, give us refuge, and help us stay faithful. But how can we do this when turmoil is all around us? 

Verse 7 suggests: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” We could start by learning to keep silent for a few minutes after prayer. Or by quietly reading the Bible and letting the words soak into our hearts. And then, perhaps, we’ll hear His wisdom speaking to us, quiet and steady as a ticking watch.

— Leslie Koh

How can you be still before God each day? What will help you stay silent and listen?

Loving God, grant me the patience and discipline to stay still for a while each day, that I might hear Your gentle whisper in my life.  

ODB: Waiting in Hope

February 10, 2021 

READ: Luke 2:25–35 

Simeon . . . was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. Luke 2:25

 

In the movie Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, a college professor befriended a stray Akita puppy named Hachi. The dog expressed his loyalty by waiting at the train station each day for the professor to return from work. One day, the professor suffered a fatal stroke. Hachi waited hours at the train station, and for the next ten years he returned each day—awaiting His loving master.

Luke tells the story of a man named Simeon who patiently waited for the coming of his Master (Luke 2:25). The Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not see death until he saw the Messiah (v. 26). As a result, Simeon kept waiting for the One who would provide “salvation” for God’s people (v. 30). When Mary and Joseph entered the temple with Jesus, the Holy Spirit whispered to Simeon that He was the One! The wait was finally over! Simeon held Christ in his arms—the hope, salvation, and comfort for all people (vv. 28–32).

If we find ourselves in a season of waiting, may we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah with fresh ears: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). As we await Jesus’ return, He provides the hope and strength we need for each new day.

— Marvin Williams

When have you become weary as you waited for God? What encouraged you to endure during that challenging season?

Jesus, I will wait for You. Through pain, tears, and uncertainty, help me to not become weary but to rest in Your provision. 
For hope in the storms of life, read DiscoverySeries.org/Q0746.