Entries by YMI

ODJ: daily bread

May 1, 2013 

READ: Matthew 6:9-13

Give us today the food we need (v.11).

I work for a Christian ministry whose flagship publication is titled Our Daily Bread. Maybe you’ve heard of it. ODB is a popular daily devotional that has blessed millions of readers since its debut more than 50 years ago.

The title for this beloved devotional was borrowed from what is traditionally known as “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4). Lately I’ve been reading up on the meaning of the original phrase.

I learned that the Greek word rendered “daily” (Matthew 6:11 KJV) by most modern Bible translations is absolutely unique in Greek literature—it doesn’t appear anywhere else. Over the centuries some have thought that the word refers to ‘bread of today’ or the ‘bread of tomorrow.’ Others have taken it to mean ‘just enough bread to keep us alive’ or ‘the bread we need’.

In his book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Kenneth Bailey suggests that a second-century Syrian translation of The Lord’s Prayer gives us one of the best insights into the meaning of this rare word. The translation is rendered in English, “Give us today the bread that doesn’t run out.” Bailey believes that this was Jesus’ intended meaning, as it speaks to the universal human fear of not having enough to survive. 

If we run out of the basic necessities of life such as food and water, we’re finished. It’s the same fear that gripped the widow in Zarephath as she prepared to make one final loaf of bread for herself and her only son before they died (1 Kings 17:8-12). 

It’s clear that Jesus taught us to pray for deliverance from this basic human fear that can utterly demoralise the human spirit. Praying for “our daily bread” is asking the Giver of all life for the food we need (physical and spiritual) to sustain us today, tomorrow and forever.—Jeff Olson

Read John 6:32-35 and see what Jesus says about the “bread of life”. 
How has Jesus’ daily bread been meeting your needs? Why is it vital that we continually seek the daily bread that only He can provide?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Fantastic Offers

April 30, 2013 

READ: 1 Peter 1:3-9 

[God’s] abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. —1 Peter 1:3 

I am amazed at the unbelievable offers that flood my e-mail box every day. Recently, I added up the offers of free money that came to me in a week, and my “take” totaled $26 million. But each of those offers was a fraud. Every one—from a $1 million prize to a $7 million offer—was nothing but a lie sent by unscrupulous people to squeeze money from me.

We’re all vulnerable to fantastic offers—to scams that in reality pay off with nothing but trouble. We are offered false hope that ends in dashed dreams.

There is one offer, however, that is genuine, though fantastic beyond belief. It’s the offer God makes to us—salvation through faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). It is an offer that cost Him greatly—and we get the benefits. The book of Romans tells us, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (4:25 niv).

By saying yes to salvation, we can have hope (Titus 1:2), peace (Rom. 5:1), forgiveness (Eph. 1:7), incomparable riches (2:7), and redemption (4:30). This is the real deal. Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantees it.

— Dave Branon

Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
—John Wesley. © 1951 Singspiration

Our salvation was infinitely costly to God,
but it is absolutely free to us. 

ODJ: for a lifetime

April 30, 2013 

READ: 2 Peter 1:3-8 

. . . brotherly affection with love for everyone (vv.5-7).

David Brooks, in his book The Social Animal, details how Gary McPherson studied 157 randomly selected children who had chosen to play a musical instrument. McPherson wanted to know why some students went on to become really good musicians and why others faltered. He believed there was one factor. Even before the kids picked up their instruments, McPherson asked: “How long do you think you will play?” The students who planned to play for a short while did not become very proficient. The students who planned to practise and play their whole lives became very good musicians.

Peter reminded his readers that it was vital for them to have a lifelong commitment to follow Jesus. Only then could they soar in their faith and experience an ever-deepening relationship with him.

Peter wrote a symphony of grace, urging the young believers he was addressing to continue on towards Christian maturity. He lifted up God’s promised spiritual resources that every true believer possesses in Jesus 
(2 Peter 1:3-5). Peter also wanted them to know that it would take every ounce of effort, along with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, to supplement their faith with a complement of Christlike character traits (v.5). His readers were told to work hard at cultivating moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, patient endurance, godliness, brotherly affection and love (vv.5-7). And, if they cultivated these character traits throughout their lives, they would become more like Jesus (v.8).

Growing in our relationship with Jesus is a lifelong process and endeavour. If we’re fully convinced and determined that we will follow Jesus all our years, it’s highly likely that our faith will take wing and soar. How strong is your commitment to follow Him? —Marvin Williams

According to 1 Peter 2:1-3 and 2 Peter 3:18, how can you grow spiritually? 
Which of the qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7 do you most want to add to your character traits? How will you begin developing a godly quality today?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Overcoming Bad News

April 29, 2013 

READ: Psalm 4 

Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us. —Psalm 4:6 

“There are many who say, ‘Who will show us any good?’” (Ps. 4:6). These words of David seem to describe the pessimistic outlook we so easily develop in our world today. The front page of newspapers and the top stories on the Internet or television seem to focus on crime, accidents, politics, the economy, and prominent people behaving badly. Our conversations at work and home begin to dwell on difficulties, and it’s enough to discourage anyone. Where can we turn for better news?

In the midst of his troubles, David turned to the Lord, who relieved his distress (v.1) and heard his prayer (v.3). Instead of hoping for temporary good from altered circumstances, he found unceasing encouragement in God. “Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us” (v.6). The result was a gladness of heart that surpassed any earthly prosperity or success (v.7).

Throughout David’s life, before and after he became king of Israel, he was never without opposition. But at the end of the day, he could say, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (v.8).

Pondering the truths in Psalm 4 about God’s care for us is a good way to begin and end every day.

— David C. McCasland

In His care confiding
I will sweetly sleep,
For the Lord my Savior
Will in safety keep. —Psalter

God is a safe dwelling place in life’s storms. 

ODJ: the promised Spirit

April 29, 2013 

READ: Joel 2:28-32 

Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out My Spirit upon all people (v.28).

In a world where promises are easily made and broken,many people are sceptical about the value of them. We read quotes such as, “The problem with promises is that once you’ve made one, it’s bound to be broken. It’s like an unspoken cosmic rule.” 

So how good is a promise? Well, it depends on the content of the promise as well as the character and ability of the promise-maker. Thankfully, as believers in Jesus, we don’t need to be sceptical about promises. We’re recipients of promises that are “great and precious” (2 Peter 1:4), and as C. H. Spurgeon says, “[God] who makes the promise will find ways and means of keeping it.”

Today’s reading provides some compelling insights. God promised that all believers—Jews and Gentiles, men and women, old and young, servant and master—would possess the Spirit (Joel 2:28-29). This is an amazing promise, because at this point in history God’s people had been identified by circumcision and by obedience to the Torah. The Holy Spirit had come upon certain people for specific purposes only—such as Bezalel in Exodus 35:31.

We read of the amazing fulfilment of Jesus’ prophetic promise of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-6—something that is still being fulfilled. For anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will receive His Holy Spirit as a seal for the day of redemption as well as empowerment to live the Christian life (Ephesians 3:16; 4:30).

Just as God has brought His promise in Joel 2:28-29 to pass, He will also fulfil His promises in verses 30-32. The day of reckoning is coming, and God has promised that all who receive salvation will be saved (v.32).

Praise Him for being the God who keeps His promises! —Poh Fang Chia

› Nehemiah 2:1-20

Read 2 Corinthians 1:20 for assurance that God is completely trustworthy and will fulfil His promises.
How will the knowledge that God keeps His promises shape the way you read His promises? What promises from God are most precious to you?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Terrifying Moments

April 28, 2013 

READ: Psalm 23 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. —Psalm 23:4 

When our first child was born, my wife, Marlene, was in labor for more than 30 hours, creating tremendous stress for both her and the baby. The doctor, a fill-in for her regular physician, was unfamiliar with her and her pregnancy. As a result, he waited too long to make the decision to perform an emergency Caesarean section, and the resulting trauma put our infant son in the neo-natal intensive care unit. There was nothing they could do to help our baby to overcome his trauma-induced condition.

By God’s grace, Matt recovered—but I cannot remember any moment in my life as terrifying as when I stood by his crib in intensive care. Yet I knew the Lord was near as I talked with Him through prayer.

In the terrifying moments of life (and all the other moments as well) nothing can bring comfort to the hurting heart like the reality of God’s presence and care. The psalmist David wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4).

When fear is overwhelming, the Lord is there. His comforting presence will carry us through our deepest trials.

— Bill Crowder

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll—
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.” —Spafford

Peace is the presence of God. 

ODJ: lost in the dark

April 28, 2013 

READ: John 3:1-17 

If you don’t believe Me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe 
if I tell you about 
heavenly things? (v.12).

Last March the Ecuadorian navy rescued 18 year old Adrian Vasquez after he had aimlessly floated 28 days across the ocean on a 10 foot fishing boat. He had gone fishing with two friends, but as they headed toward shore the motor failed. Vasquez’s friends soon died from exposure and hunger. When he was found, the fortunate teen was 600 miles from home. He was clinging to life and completely disoriented. “He was quiet, looking lost,” the navy captain said. Vasquez asked for a phone to call his mother and to call his boss in order to explain why he’d been absent.

Nicodemus, a religious leader, came to Jesus with questions. Wanting to highlight how Nicodemus was lost and groping in the night, John clarifies that Nicodemus came “after dark” (v.2). In John’s gospel darkness often has a metaphorical meaning. For instance, darkness represents the shroud of confusion and death covering the world (3:19-20), and darkness represents people who stumble and lose their way (11:10).

In contrast, Jesus is the Light who brings salvation into the world (1:9, 8:12). Light, through Jesus, breaks through the impenetrable darkness. Wherever darkness and death are found (which is everywhere), the brilliance of God’s work in Jesus Christ bursts free. Whoever is lost in a dark night (which is everyone) can be found by Jesus’ light.

The question for Nicodemus was whether or not he would walk into this light—whether or not he would grasp Jesus’ teaching. He repeatedly asked how the things being taught could be possible (vv.4,9). Nicodemus couldn’t comprehend Jesus’ strange words.

“If you don’t understand,” Jesus said, “I can’t help you” (v.12, my paraphrase). Jesus’ words stand for us as well. If we don’t choose to follow and understand Jesus—if we don’t walk into the light—we remain lost, groping in the dark. —Winn Collier

Read John 3:16 again. Reconsider this famous verse from the vantage point of Nicodemus, the one who is confused 
and bewildered. 
Where do you feel lost? How do you need to receive Jesus’ light today?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Calling You

April 27, 2013 

READ: 1 Samuel 3:1-10 

The Lord called yet again, “Samuel!” —1 Samuel 3:6 

A couple of co-workers and I had just gone through airport security and were walking to our gate when I heard my name: “Paging Anne Cetas. Paging Anne Cetas.” It’s not a common name, so we knew it had to be mine. I assumed I had absent-mindedly left something at the check-in point. I checked with an airline agent, who told me to pick up a red phone, give my name, and ask why I was being paged. I searched for a phone and called, but the operator said, “No, we didn’t page you.” I said, “It was definitely my name.” He replied twice, “No, we did not page you.” I never did find out why I had been called that day.

A young boy named Samuel heard his name being “paged” long ago (1 Sam. 3:4). The Scriptures say that he “did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him” (v.7), so the temple priest Eli had to help him understand who was calling him (vv.8-9). God then revealed His plan for Samuel’s life.

The Lord has a plan for us as well, and He calls to our hearts: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). That’s His call to us to receive the gift of His salvation, rest, and peace.

The Savior is calling us to come to Him.

— Anne Cetas

Jesus calls me—I must follow,
Follow Him today;
When His tender voice is pleading,
How can I delay? —Brown

Christ calls the restless ones to find their rest in Him. 

ODJ: doing God’s will

April 27, 2013 

READ: Romans 12:1-2 

Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (v.2).

The young missionary couple were confused. Certain that God had called them to serve in a specific mission field, they shared their calling with the church leadership. They then received conflicting counsel. One group affirmed their call. Another group redirected them to go to a safer country. The couple brought their conflicted situation to the Lord. After much prayer, they headed to the country God had originally placed on their hearts to begin their mission work. Because they were committed to obey His Word, they quickly found themselves doing His will.

Paul says we must first surrender ourselves to the Lord to know God’s will and then reject worldly thinking and see things from an eternal perspective (Romans 12:1-2). God’s Word, not our own wisdom, must dictate how we think and direct how we live. Only then will we be able to discern God’s will.

Romans 12:1-2 says that you will find yourself in God’s will if you surrender to Jesus’ lead and seek to do what pleases Him. Jesus said that whoever wants to know God’s will must first want to do His will (John 7:17). Our obedience comes first. Then God reveals the next step to us while we’re doing what He has called us to do (Deuteronomy 29:29).

One Bible teacher likens this to a car with the engine already started and ready to roll. It’s certainly easier to move the car to the next destination when the engine is already running and the driver is at the wheel. To follow God’s will is also like using a SatNav device. It’s most effective when the car is headed toward a destination and redirecting you when you make a wrong turn. —K.T. Sim

How does God’s Word (Psalm 119:9-11,105; 
2 Timothy 3:16-17) and prayer (Philippians 4:6-7) help you discern God’s will for your life?
As you strive to discern God’s will, why is it vital that you first do what He’s calling you to do? (Deuteronomy 29:29; John 7:17). How have you been following His will lately?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)