Entries by YMI

ODB: Always Preparing

May 6, 2013 

READ: 2 Timothy 2:19-26 

If anyone cleanses himself from [dishonor], he will be a vessel for honor, . . . prepared for every good work. —2 Timothy 2:21 

While my son was home for an extended visit, he knocked on my office door one morning and asked me what I was doing. “I’m preparing for Sunday school,” I told him. Then, thinking about all the time I spend in my office, I said, “It seems like I’m always preparing for something.”

I’m grateful for the opportunities God gives me to reach out to others. There’s some stress, though, when you’re always getting something ready for somebody. It’s hard to balance priorities with the pressure to prepare a lesson, a message, or a document continually on your mind.

This idea of constant preparation intrigued me, so I checked the Bible to see if it talks about the subject. I found that we are called to always be preparing. A heart dedicated to God must be prepared to serve Him (1 Sam. 7:3). We are to be ready to do good works (2 Tim. 2:21) and to defend scriptural truth (1 Peter 3:15). And Paul reminds us that even our giving takes planning (2 Cor. 9:5).

That’s just a start. Living a life that pleases the Lord takes mental, spiritual, and physical preparation. But we don’t need to stress, because He will enable us with His power. Let’s ask God to guide us as we prepare to serve, honor, and tell others about Him.

— Dave Branon

Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
Much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us,
For our use Thy folds prepare. —Thrupp

The best preparation for tomorrow is the right use of today. 

ODJ: freeing money


May 6, 2013 

READ: 2 Corinthians 8:1-9 

[They are] filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity (v.2).


Among the poor, I’ve often encountered extravagant generosity. In the Amazon jungle, locals stretched their meagre resources to provide me with daily meals. One evening they prepared fresh monkey stew and though it was not something I cared to eat, it was a costly delicacy for them. Within the slums of Mexico or Indonesia, you’ll often discover individuals who, because they have so little to horde and protect, exhibit the grace of generosity.


God’s people, from Old Testament to New, have always given money as an act of worship to God and as a way of tangible participation in the joy of seeing God’s kingdom established on earth. In the Bible, God has much to say about money—mentioning money (or possessions) 2,172 times. God talks about what we own three times more than love and seven times more than prayer. 


It’s not as though our money and possessions are more important than those other matters, but how we use them serves as a reflection of our entire lives. We might say we love God and neighbour, or we might say that we pray to Christ as Lord; but if our possessions have a stranglehold on our affections, then our words are hollow.


Richard Halverson says, “Jesus Christ said more about money than about any other single thing because, when it comes to a person’s real nature, money is of first importance. Money is an exact index to a person’s true character. All through Scripture there is an intimate correlation between the development of a person’s character and how he handles his money.”


Paul reminded the Corinthians that generosity comes from a life lived in the way of Jesus, who, “though He was rich, yet for [our] sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make [us] rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).—Winn Collier


MORE
Read Matthew 6:21. What’s the connection between our money and the state of our heart? Why do you think this connection exists?
 
NEXT
Where do you tend to be greedy, to grasp firmly your money and whatever you own? Where do you need to let your money go?
 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Digesting The Word

May 5, 2013 

READ: Jeremiah 15:15-21 

Your Word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart. —Jeremiah 15:16 

King James is famous for the Bible translation that bears his name. But around the same time as the printing of the Bible, he also commissioned The Book of Common Prayer. Still used today, this guide to intercession and worship contains a marvelous prayer for internalizing the Bible: “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; grant that we may . . . hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of [Your] holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.”

Many centuries earlier, Jeremiah the prophet expressed a similar way of letting the Scriptures nourish our hearts: “Your words were found, and I ate them; and Your Word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart: for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts” (Jer. 15:16). We internalize the Word as we “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” a passage of Scripture through prayerful meditation.

Ask the Lord to help you apply the Bible to your heart today. Take time to ponder the meat and milk of the Word (Heb. 5:12). As you quiet your heart, God will teach you about Himself through His Book.

— Dennis Fisher

Lord, I meditate on Your precepts and contemplate
Your ways. I delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your Word. Open my eyes that
I may see wondrous things from Your law.

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. —Bacon 

ODJ: clear of corruption


May 5, 2013 

READ: Psalm 26:1-12 

Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart (v.2).


An advisor I recently consulted was highly recommended by a large, established Christian organisation. At first I had a positive experience with him as he helped me navigate the complicated immigration laws in Uganda. The second time around, however, the man literally took my money and ran. When I called the organisation that had referred him, a representative said, “He started out good but went astray. Stay away from him. He’s dangerous.”


I ultimately learned that the man I hired had got involved in paying and receiving bribes to boost his business. His turn to corruption demonstrated the truth of Exodus 23:8, “Take no bribes, for a bribe makes you ignore something that you clearly see. A bribe makes even a righteous person twist the truth.”


Bribery negatively affects people regardless of their occupation. When a person attempts to gain through dishonest means, his or her actions lead down a treacherous path. In fact people who seek to steal from us, believing that bribery is the only way to achieve a desired outcome, are embracing sin. There’s no way to gloss over it. The psalmist writes, “Their hands are dirty with evil schemes, and they constantly take bribes. But I am not like that; I live with integrity. So redeem me and show me mercy” (Psalm 26:10-11).


If people suggest that we deal dishonestly or engage in bribery, it’s important that we reject their requests immediately and cling to verses like Psalm 25:5, “Lead me by Your truth and teach me, for You are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in You.”


Call to God, saying, “Send out Your light and Your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me . . . to the place where You live” (43:3).—Roxanne Robbins


MORE
What does Job 15:34 convey to you about the fate of those who engage in bribery?
 
NEXT
How have you been tempted to act without integrity recently? Why does God desire our human dealings to be pure—exhibiting honesty and integrity?
 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Songs Born Out Of Struggle

May 4, 2013 

READ: Psalm 31:9-20 

Have mercy on me, O Lord . . . ; my eye wastes away with grief, yes, my soul and my body! —Psalm 31:9 

In a documentary film about three legendary guitarists, Jack White described the first essential for writing a song: “If you don’t have a struggle already inside of you or around you, you have to make one up.”

The songs that mean the most to us give expression to our deepest feelings. Many of the Psalms, often called “the Bible’s songbook,” were born out of struggle. They capture our disappointments and fears, yet they always point us toward the faithful love of God.

In Psalm 31, David wrote: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye wastes away with grief, yes, my soul and my body!” (v.9). He speaks of a trap set for him (v.4), his own sin (v.10), abandonment by friends (vv.11-12), and plots against his life (v.13).

Yet, David’s hope was not in his own strength, but in God. “I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me” (vv.14-15).

The Psalms invite us to pour out our hearts to God, because He has stored up His goodness for those who trust in Him (v.19).

— David C. McCasland

God gives to His servants this promise:
You’ll not have to face life alone;
For when you grow weak in your struggle,
His strength will prevail—not your own. —Hess

When in your deepest need, find God’s comfort in the Psalms. 

ODJ: stay hungry


May 4, 2013 

READ: Hosea 13:1-6 

When you had eaten and were satisfied, you became proud and forgot Me (v.6).


It’s often more difficult to stay on top than it is to get there. This is true in sports: a young boxer trains hard as he fights his way through the ranks, but once he wins a championship he becomes lazy and loses his title to a new, hungrier challenger. This is also true in business. A rising star puts in long hours as she climbs the corporate ladder, but she loses her edge when she begins to enjoy the wealth and privileges that come with her success.


This is also true in our walk with God. Have you ever been spiritually dry? Your heart yearned for God in what seemed like a barren wilderness. You fought the malaise until finally you broke through. God mercifully illumined His Word as verses leapt off the page and into your heart. You shouted His praise and poured out your love and adoration. You thought you had tasted heaven.


If this has happened to you, you know that the days that follow a spiritual high are extremely dangerous. Firstly, we may become tempted to chase ever-escalating emotions. But feelings are fickle, and it’s impossible to create a high, let alone to stay there. 


Secondly, we may become content and overconfident in our spiritual life. We recklessly click on websites, watch films and share gossip that we normally wouldn’t. We feel so close to Jesus that we presume these actions must be okay, simply because we’re doing them. And so we fall—sometimes hard—and the cycle starts all over again. 


How can you stay hungry when you are spiritually full? Remember where your food comes from. God told Israel, “I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land” (Hosea 13:5). When you’re full of gratitude, there’s no room for pride (v.6).—Mike Wittmer


MORE
Read Philippians 3:12-21 to discover how we can stay hungry in our walk with Christ.
 
NEXT
Do you feel spiritually full or hungry? Which is better? What can you do to thrive in both situations?
 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Momma’s Rules

May 3, 2013 

READ: Ephesians 4:17-32 

Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt. —Ephesians 4:22 

I met a delightful woman named “Momma Charlie,” who has raised a dozen or so foster kids. These youngsters were assigned to her by the courts, and she gave them a home with stability, guidance, and love. She told me that every time a new child arrived, the first order of business was to explain “Momma’s Rules.” These included behavioral standards, plus chores that would provide much-needed help in the busy household while teaching accountability to kids with little previous training.

Some of the children may have balked at “Momma’s Rules,” thinking they were robbing them of fun or pleasure—yet nothing would be further from the truth. Those standards allowed for an orderly household where both Momma and the children could find life enjoyable and peaceful.

Similarly, some look at the standards God set forth in the Bible as obstacles that prevent us from enjoying life. However, the boundaries God places actually protect us from our worst inclinations and foster healthy responses to Him.

In Ephesians 4, for example, Paul provides some guidance for how we are to live. As we live by these and other loving instructions from God, we find protection and the opportunity for true, lasting joy.

— Bill Crowder

Father, thank You for the boundaries of life that
protect us from sin and from ourselves. Give us
the wisdom and grace to respond gratefully to
Your Word in areas of danger and temptation.

God’s Word is the compass that keeps us on course. 

ODJ: he said, she said


May 3, 2013 

READ: Genesis 3:1-19 

Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden? (v.1).


A radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’ novel The War ofthe Worlds panicked thousands of listeners back in 1938. People who tuned in actually believed that aliens had landed on a farm in New Jersey and were preparing to attack America. They mistook a work of fiction for actual current events! A series of phony news bulletins featured a reporter giving an ‘eyewitness’ account of terrifying happenings. As a result, confused citizens swarmed police stations and hundreds of people required medical help for shock and hysteria.


Confusion was a key factor in the fall of humankind. Most of us know the story: the snake struck up a conversation with Eve by asking, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (v.1). No! Eve corrected the serpent, but she didn’t get God’s statement right; she added something. She claimed that God said, “You must not eat it or even touch [the fruit]; if you do, you will die” (v.3). But God never said anything about touching the fruit.


The snake carried on his campaign of confusion. “You won’t die!” (v.4) he said. He insinuated that sampling the ‘illegal substance’ would make life better for Eve because she would become “like God, knowing both good and evil” (v.5). Eve took the bait, but life did not improve. When she and Adam nibbled the forbidden fruit, “at that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame” (v.7). (Can’t you hear the snake sniggering in the background?)


Today Satan confuses people by lying about what God has said and suggesting that consequences for sin don’t exist. He uses various opening lines: Just once won’t hurt . . . no one will ever know . . . everyone’s doing it. Accurately quoting God’s words and acting on His truth when tempted (Psalm 37:31; Matthew 4:1-10), however, means we won’t become bewildered by lies.—Jennifer Benson Schuldt


MORE
Read Proverbs 30:6 to see why it’s important to handle Scripture accurately. Compare John 8:44 with 12:44-46 to see where we should place our trust.
 
NEXT
What aspect of God’s Word has Satan tried to twist in your life? How can the Bible help you combat the temptation you face today?
 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: A Plea For Prayer

May 2, 2013 

READ: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 

Brethren, pray for us. —2 Thessalonians 3:1 

A missionary recently visited the Bible study I was attending. She described what it had been like to pack up her household, part with friends, and relocate to a distant country. When she and her family arrived, they were greeted with a flourishing drug-trade and hazardous roadways. The language barrier brought on bouts of loneliness. They contracted four different stomach viruses. And her oldest daughter narrowly escaped death after falling through a railing on an unsafe stairwell. They needed prayer.

The apostle Paul experienced danger and hardship as a missionary. He was imprisoned, shipwrecked, and beaten. It’s no surprise that his letters contained pleas for prayer. He asked the believers in Thessalonica to pray for success in spreading the gospel—that God’s Word would “run swiftly and be glorified” (2 Thess. 3:1) and that God would deliver him from “unreasonable and wicked men” (v.2). Paul knew he would need to “open [his] mouth boldly” and declare the gospel (Eph. 6:19), which was yet another prayer request.

Do you know people who need supernatural help as they spread the good news of Christ? Remember Paul’s appeal, “Brethren, pray for us” (2 Thess. 3:1), and intercede for them before the throne of our powerful God.

— Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Commit to pray and intercede—
The battle’s strong and great’s the need;
And this one truth can’t be ignored:
Our only help comes from the Lord. —Sper

Intercede for others in prayer;
God’s throne is always accessible.