Entries by YMI

ODB: On The Fringe

March 7, 2013 

READ: Philippians 4:10-20 

God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:19 

When butterflies hatch at Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they do so in an indoor tropical paradise perfectly suited to meet their every need. The temperature is perfect. The humidity is perfect. The food is a perfect balance of calories and nutrition to keep them healthy. No need to go elsewhere. Yet some butterflies see the bright blue sky outside the conservatory and spend their days fluttering near the glass ceiling far away from the plentiful food supply.

I want to say to those butterflies, “Don’t you know everything you need is inside? The outside is cold and harsh, and you will die within minutes if you get what you are longing to have.”

I wonder if that is the message God has for me. So I ask myself, Do I look longingly at things that would harm me? Do I use my energy to gain what I don’t need and shouldn’t have? Do I ignore God’s plentiful provision because I imagine that something just beyond my reach is better? Do I spend my time on the fringes of faith?

God supplies all our needs from His riches (Phil. 4:19). So instead of striving for what we don’t have, may we open our hearts to gratefully receive everything we’ve already been given by Him.

— Julie Ackerman Link

All that I want is in Jesus;
He satisfies, joy He supplies;
Life would be worthless without Him,
All things in Jesus I find. —Loes

Our needs will never exhaust God’s supply. 

ODJ: yet to come

March 7, 2013 

READ: Daniel 12:1-13 

Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace (v.2).

My sister might take a year off from work to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I told her, “Well, be ready to check out the hills so that you know where to run to during the great tribulation.” 
Though spoken half in jest, both of us believe that Jesus is coming soon and we take to heart His prophetic words in Matthew 24.

Another less familiar passage about the end times is Daniel 12. It begins with the words, “At that time” (v.1). It’s the dire time revealed in 11:40-45 when Israel will face unprecedented troubles. Yet at that very time, hope will dawn. Daniel 12:2 gives us one of those rare occurrences in the Old Testament that speak of resurrection. We’re assured that believers will face a happy future. Death may seem final, but it’s not the end. Yes, we shall awake “to everlasting life” (v.2). And God will honour those who remain faithful to Him (v.3).

As frail human beings, however, we would like to know how long we may have to suffer. Daniel’s vision provides some comforting truths:

• For believers, suffering is only for a season (v.7) and the best is yet to come. Along with Daniel, we “will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for [us]” (v.13).

• There’s a good purpose behind our trials. They will purify, cleanse and refine us (v.10).

A. M. Overton wrote: “Tho’ night be dark and it may seem that day will never break, I’ll pin my faith, my all in Him, He maketh no mistake. For by and by the mist will lift and plain it all He’ll make, through all the way, tho’ dark to me, He made not one mistake.” Hallelujah! —Poh Fang Chia

Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 and Revelation 20:4-6, 12-15 for a deeper understanding of the resurrection of the dead.
How can the hope of the resurrection encourage you to remain faithful in the midst of suffering 
and pain? What are you most looking forward to 
in the future?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Bumper Cars

March 6, 2013 

READ: Matthew 18:23-35 

Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times? —Matthew 18:21 

Life is a lot like “bumper cars” at an amusement park. You get in your car, knowing that you will get hit . . . you just don’t know how hard. And when you get hit, you step on the gas pedal, chase the one who has hit you, and hope to bump that person harder than they have bumped you.

That may be a fun strategy for bumper cars, but it’s a terrible strategy for life. When you get bumped in life, bumping back only escalates matters and in the end everyone suffers damage.

Jesus had a better strategy: Forgive those who have “bumped” us. Like Peter, we may wonder how many times we have to forgive. When Peter asked Jesus, “Up to seven times?” Jesus answered “Up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21-22). In other words, there are no limits to grace. We should always extend a spirit of forgiveness. Why? In the story of the forgiving master, Jesus explained that we forgive not because our offenders deserve it but because we’ve been forgiven. He says, “I forgave you . . . because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (vv.32-33).

Since we are among those who’ve been forgiven much, let’s stop the damage and share that blessing with others.

— Joe Stowell

Lord, remind us of how deeply we have offended You
and how often You have extended the grace of
forgiveness to us. Teach us to forgive others and to trust
You to deal with those who sin against us.

Forgiveness is God’s grace in action through us. 

ODJ: pulled from death

March 6, 2013 

READ: Proverbs 13:14 

The instruction of the wise is like a life-giving fountain; those who accept it avoid the snares of death (v.14).

In Luxor, an Egyptian city more than 400 miles south of Cairo, medical professionals pronounced Hamdi Hafez al-Nubi dead. He was only 28 years old, far too young to die of a heart attack. His family took his body home and (following Islamic burial rites) bathed Hamdi in order to prepare him for his funeral. The hospital sent a doctor to his family’s home to endorse the death certificate, but when the doctor arrived, she found the body was warm. Hamdi was alive. His mother fainted, but the Associated Press reporter happily concluded that with “the doctor’s assistance, both al-Nubi and his mother were awakened and soon were celebrating with guests.”

It’s a happy story whenever death is robbed of power. It’s a happy story any time life wins. Proverbs speaks of one repeated way death loses power: whenever wisdom speaks, death retreats. In Proverbs wisdom is truth that comes from the ultimate source of truth—God. And God, Scripture tells us, is also the ultimate Source of life. So as we hear and obey God’s truth (which is what Proverbs means by wise living), we move towards life. We move towards the “life-giving fountain” (Proverbs 13:14).

As we move towards life, we’re moving away from death. We discover that we’re automatically shunning those things that distract us from God’s provision and His care—from all of His good intentions for us. When we follow God’s wisdom, we’re pulled from “the snares of death” (v.14).

Proverbs repeats these ideas often, as does the rest of the Bible. “Evil people find death” (11:19), one proverb declares. Conversely, “the one who gets wisdom loves life” (19:8 NIV). To follow God is to pursue wisdom. To follow God is to run from death. —Winn Collier

› Joshua 24:1-31

Read Proverbs 14:27. What’s similar between this proverb and 13:14? What’s different? What does this distinction tell us? 
Where in life do you need to say yes to God’s wisdom? Where do you need to say no to death?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Forced Leisure

March 5, 2013 

READ: Zephaniah 3:14-20 

The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. —Zephaniah 3:17 

Just before Christmas one year, a friend was diagnosed with leukemia and was told she must begin chemotherapy immediately. Just a few weeks earlier, Kim had told friends how blessed and content she felt with a loving family, a comfortable home, and a new grandson. As she entered the hospital, Kim asked Jesus to make His presence known to her and to stay close.

The next 7 months of treatments followed by recovery in partial isolation became a season she calls “forced leisure.” She says she learned how to slow down, reflect quietly, and rest in God’s goodness, love, and perfect plan—regardless of whether or not she would be healed.

One of God’s promises to His people Israel became personal to Kim: “The Lord your God . . . will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17).

Kim is in remission after a journey she says changed her life for the better. Now back in her busy routine, she often pauses to recapture the lessons of “forced leisure.”

How important that we—in good times or times of challenge—draw near to God’s loving heart to hear His voice and place our lives in His hands.

— David C. McCasland

A troubled heart, a wearied mind
Are burdens hard to bear;
A lack of peace, a heavy load
Are lifted by God’s care. —Fitzhugh

People are at the heart of God’s heart. 

ODJ: money or mobility?

March 5, 2013 

READ: Acts 3:1-8 

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

I hardly ever encounter beggars on the streets. But in some countries you can find them begging at the markets and shopping centres. Once, when visiting a neighbouring country, my hosts told me that for my own sake I had to ignore the beggars. If I showed the slightest interest in one, he would pursue and pester me until I gave him some money. And the moment I gave to one I would be very quickly swarmed by many others.

In Acts 3 we read of a man crippled from birth. He had to be carried and placed outside the temple gates where he would beg from the worshippers going into the temple. Calling out to anyone who cared enough to stop and help him, he was just one of thousands of beggars who depended on people’s kindness to survive. Having done this for many years (Acts 4:22), he was accustomed to being shunned, ignored and rejected.

But then Peter and John came to the temple to pray. The beggar called out to them, hardly expecting that they would notice him. Instead they demanded his undivided attention, making sure that he knew he had been intentionally singled out (3:4). The man merely wanted money (v.5), but they gave him much more. They gave him a miracle. They gave him mobility and a new life (vv.6-9).

We cry out to God to meet our needs. Often what we think we need isn’t what we truly need. It’s something deeper. Thankfully God knows what our real needs are. In His grace God doesn’t just give us what we ask for. He gives us something immeasurably better (Ephesians 3:20; 1 Timothy 1:14).

If I were that beggar, would I merely be asking for money to survive? Or would I seek what would allow me to really live? —K.T. Sim

Joshua 23:1-16 ‹

Read Matthew 6:25-32 to see why we can trust God to provide for our basic needs, and read Matthew 6:33, 7:11 and Ephesians 3:16-20 to see how much more God wants to give us. 
How have you become insensitive and immunised to the cries of people asking for help? Who can you share your ‘silver and gold’ with this week?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: They’re Watching

March 4, 2013 

READ: Titus 3:1-8 

Speak evil of no one, . . . be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. —Titus 3:2 

It’s been several decades since a high school event devastated me. Playing sports was hugely important to me. I zeroed in on basketball and spent hundreds of hours practicing my game. So when I didn’t make the varsity team in my last year after being on the team since junior high, I was crushed.

Disappointed and confused, I carried on. I became a stats guy for the team, going to games and keeping track of my friends’ rebounds and shots as they got within one game of the state championship without me. To be honest, I never thought of how they were viewing my response. I just muddled through. That’s why I was surprised recently to hear that several of my classmates told my brother that they saw in my response a lesson in Christianity—a picture of Christ. My point is not to tell you to do as I did, because I’m not sure what I did. My point is this: Whether we know it or not, people are watching us.

In Titus 3:1-8, Paul explains the life God enables us to live—a life of respect, obedience, and kindness that results from being reborn through Jesus and renewed by the Holy Spirit who has been poured out on us.

As we live a Spirit-guided life, God will show the reality of His presence to others through us.

— Dave Branon

Dear Father, You know how inadequate I am.
Please equip me through the Spirit to show love
and respect in my life so that others will see
through me and see You.

A Christian is a living sermon
whether or not he preaches a word. 

ODJ: so many parables

March 4, 2013 

READ: Matthew 13:34-35,53-58 

Jesus always used 
stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, He never spoke to them without using such parables (v.34).

Parables. Jesus told lots of them: the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:3-23), the mustard seed (vv.31-32), the hidden treasure in the field (13:44-46), the vineyard workers (20:1-16), the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), the lost sheep (15:4-7), the prodigal son (vv.11-32).

But why did Jesus tell so many parables? Matthew tells us that parables were Jesus’ primary method of explaining to the masses what His kingdom was all about (Matthew 13:34). In His kingdom, God’s generosity leads Him to treat everyone equally (20:1-16). Faithful stewardship is commended (25:14-30). People across the world have a place in His kingdom (Luke 13:29). The humble are exalted (18:14).

Jesus’ short stories were also packed full of clues as to how the kingdom of heaven can manifest itself here on earth. Jesus hinted that His kingdom can come to earth from even the smallest of things (the mustard seed). It’s displayed when compassion is shown to people far different from us (the good Samaritan). Heaven breaks through to earth when forgiveness and restoration is extended to any sinner who repents (the lost son).

Those who took the time to listen to and wrestle with what Jesus was saying were able to see ancient, kingdom secrets that had been “hidden since the creation of the world” (Matthew 13:35). They were able to understand that He was establishing a revolutionary way of life that they could join with as both beneficiaries and ambassadors.

Sadly not everyone who heard Jesus listened. The religious establishment dismissed the clues because they didn’t fit into their nationalistic agenda. Still, many did listen—Jews and Gentiles alike—and it transformed their lives.

As we read the story of Jesus today, let’s pick up His clues and be about building His kingdom. —Jeff Olson

› Joshua 10:1-15 1

Look up John 12:23-24 and note that the ultimate ‘twist’ to Jesus’ kingdom story was that heaven couldn’t come to earth without His death and resurrection.
Start reading through the Gospels to see just how often Jesus emphasised that His heavenly kingdom was coming to earth. What are you doing to build Jesus’ kingdom?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Refreshing Candor

March 3, 2013 

READ: John 4:7-26 

He who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, . . . this one will be blessed in what he does. —James 1:25 

Of the many things I love about my mom, chief among them may be her candor. Many times I have called to ask her opinion on a matter and she has consistently responded, “Don’t ask my opinion unless you want to hear it. I’m not going to try to figure out what you want to hear. I’ll tell you what I really think.”

In a world where words are carefully parsed, her straightforwardness is refreshing. It is also one of the characteristics of a true friend. Real friends speak the truth to us in love—even if it isn’t what we want to hear. As the proverb says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6).

This is one of the reasons Jesus is the greatest of friends. When He encountered the woman at the well (John 4:7-26), He refused to be pulled into a tug-of-war over secondary issues but instead drove to the deepest issues and needs of her heart. He challenged her about the character of the Father and lovingly spoke to her of her broken dreams and deep disappointments.

As we walk with our Lord, may we allow Him to speak candidly to the true condition of our hearts through the Scriptures—that we might turn to Him and find His grace to help us in our times of need.

— Bill Crowder

Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be my Savior
and the greatest of friends. Help me to learn from Him
how loving honesty can make a difference in helping
the hurting people around me.

Jesus always tells us truth.