Entries by YMI

ODB: Supernatural Surveillance

April 4, 2013 

READ: Matthew 6:1-6,16-18 

Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. —Matthew 6:18 

Not far from my house, authorities have rigged a camera to snap pictures of drivers who race through red lights. The offenders later receive in the mail a ticket along with a “red-light photo,” which is visual proof of their traffic violation.

Sometimes I think of God in the same way I think of that camera—He’s up there, just waiting to catch me doing the wrong thing. While God does see our sin (Heb. 4:13), He sees and takes interest in our good deeds as well. Due to His supernatural surveillance, God sees the size of our sacrifice when we give money to the church or to those in need (Mark 12:41-44). He hears our private prayers (Matt. 6:6). And when we fast, we can carry on as usual being assured that our “Father . . . sees in secret” (v.18).

Knowing that God sees everything frees us from thinking about the watchful eyes of others. When we do what is right, we need no applause from onlookers; when we sin, we do not need to worry about our reputation once we settle the issue with God and anyone we’ve harmed. We can rest knowing that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chron. 16:9).

— Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Lord, thank You for Your all-seeing nature. You know
everything I think and do. Help me to value Your
approval and live according to Your standards,
no matter what anyone else may think.

Others see what we do, but God sees why we do it. 

ODJ: pandora?

April 4, 2013 

READ: Matthew 5:17-20 

If you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great (v.19).

Pandora is one of the musical marvels of the Internet age. It’s an algorithm-based website that allows you to listen to any musical artists, bands and songs that you like. By each song you can click a ‘thumbs up’ or a ‘thumbs down’ sign. When you click the ‘thumbs up’ sign, it plays more music like what you just heard. If you click the ‘thumbs down’ sign, Pandora will take that song out of rotation or skip that song and bring up a different song for you to judge.

To prevent His disciples from developing a ‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down’ approach to the Scriptures, Jesus taught them to have a high view of the Word. Near the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said His purpose in teaching was not to weaken the interpretation and application of the written Scriptures but to complete His disciples’ understanding of it (Matthew 5:17). To show His high view of Scripture, the unchanging nature of God’s Word and the indistinguishable principles of what the rabbis called “light” and “heavy” commandments, Jesus said heaven and earth would sooner disappear than even the smallest stroke of the ink found in the Scriptures (vv.18-19).

For Jesus, a light commandment (do not be angry or bear hatred in your heart) is just as important as a heavy commandment (do not murder). Jesus wanted His disciples to understand that God had not given them the freedom to customise His Word to their own liking.

As believers in Jesus, let’s internalise all of His teachings, not just the ones we like. When we accept and obey all of His Word, He empowers us to instinctively live out ‘thumbs-up’ obedience to what it says—even the difficult teachings. —Marvin Williams

2 Samuel 9:1-13 ‹

Read James 1:19-25.
What are the conse-quences of hearing but not obeying God’s Word? What are the results of hearing and obeying 
His Word? 
To what parts of God’s Word do you tend to give a ‘thumbs up’ or a ‘thumbs down’? What needs to change in your heart so that you can obey all of Jesus’ teachings?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

April 3, 2013 

READ: 1 John 4:7-21 

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. —1 John 4:11 

Love is the centerpiece of thriving relationships. Scripture makes it clear that we need to be people who love—love God with all our hearts, love our neighbor as ourselves, and love our enemies. But it’s hard to love when we don’t feel loved. Neglected children, spouses who feel ignored by their mates, and parents who are alienated from their children all know the heartache of a life that lacks love.

So, for everyone who longs to be loved, welcome to the pleasure of knowing that you are richly loved by God. Think of the profound impact of His love that was poured out for you at the cross. Meditate on the fact that if you’ve trusted in Him, His love covers your faults and failures and that you are clothed with His spotless righteousness (Rom. 3:22-24). Revel in the fact that nothing can separate you from His love (8:39). Embrace His loving provision of a future secured for you where you will be eternally loved (John 3:16).

When John tells us that we “ought to love one another,” he calls us the “beloved” (1 John 4:11; see also 3:1-2). Once you embrace how wonderfully loved you are by God, it will be much easier to be the loving person God calls you to be—even toward those who don’t show you love.

— Joe Stowell

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all. —Watts

Embracing God’s love for us is the key to loving others. 

ODJ: transforming grace

April 3, 2013 

READ: Galatians 1:13-24 

All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!” (v.23).

At the start of the 1998 film Les Miserables, recently released convict Jean Valjean staggers into a small village. Cold, starving and out of options, Valjean receives a meal and lodging from a local bishop. During the night, however, Valjean repays the bishop’s kindness by running off with his host’s expensive silverware. He’s caught the next morning, but the bishop graciously saves him from being sent back to prison by claiming that the stolen silverware was a “gift”.

As he’s about to send Valjean off with even more silver valuables, the bishop looks him straight in the eye and says: “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. With this silver I have bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred. And now, I give you back to God.” The rest of the film goes on to reveal how the bishop’s extraordinary gesture of grace transforms the convict’s hardened heart and, in turn, how Valjean devotes his life to helping those who are in need.

Jean Valjean’s dramatic turnaround reminds me of the apostle Paul. Before he received Jesus, he too was a cruel and self-absorbed man—blind to the true things of God (Galatians 1:13-14). But an unexpected encounter with Jesus’ mercy and kindness completely transformed his life. He abandoned his mission to persecute Christians and make a name for himself (Acts 8:3), and he devoted his life to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:23).

Paul’s life illustrates that a life changed for the good is what naturally follows an encounter with the grace of God (Titus 3:4-5). Nothing has more power to transform self-centred people than a growing amazement for what God has rescued us from and for—to serve in His kingdom. —Jeff Olson

› 2 Samuel 5:1-12

Read Acts 28:30-31 and note what it says about Paul and his pursuits.
What kingdom service has God called you to do? How has God’s grace transformed your life and pursuits?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Friendship

April 2, 2013 

READ: 1 Samuel 23:14-18 

A friend loves at all times. —Proverbs 17:17 

Friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts. True friends seek a special kind of good for their friends: the highest good, which is that they might know God and love Him with all of their heart, soul, and mind. German pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The aim of friendship is exclusively determined by what God’s will is for the other person.”

Jonathan, David’s friend, is a sterling example of true friendship. David was in exile, hiding in the Desert of Ziph, when he learned that “Saul had come out to seek his life” (1 Sam. 23:15). Jonathan went to Horesh to find David. The significance of this scene lies in Jonathan’s intent: He helped David find strength in God or, as the text puts it, he “strengthened his hand [grip] in God” (v.16).

That is the essence of Christian friendship. Beyond common interests, beyond affection, beyond wit and laughter is the ultimate aim of sowing in others the words of eternal life, leaving them with reminders of God’s wisdom, refreshing their spirit with words of His love, and strengthening their grip on God.

Pray for your friends and ask God to give you a word “in season” to help them find renewed strength in our God and His Word.

— David H. Roper

Dear Lord, thank You for loving us. May Your love
compel us to show love to others. Give us
sensitivity to Your Spirit that we might know how
to encourage them in their walk with You.

A true friend is a gift from God
and one who points us back to Him. 

ODJ: short

April 2, 2013 

READ: John 10:6-18 

Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here 
a little while, then it’s gone (James 4:14).

My friend, now 65, smiled nostalgically as she shared memories of her grandfather’s last year. Born in 1890, he had made this comment at age 94: “I went from the days of horse and cart to a man walking on the moon,” he said. Then, he mused wistfully, “I never thought [life] would be so short.”

His observation reminds me of Jacob. When his son Joseph, vice-regent of Egypt, brought his father to meet Pharaoh, Jacob said, “I have travelled this earth for 130 hard years. But my life has been short compared to the lives of my ancestors” (Genesis 47:9).

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans,” sang John Lennon in “Beautiful Boy.” No kidding! So often we squirm impatiently through life. We yearn for the bell to ring and summer holidays to begin. We long for something better. If only I were already out of school . . . or finished with college. If only I had a girlfriend/boyfriend. If only I were married. If only I had a better job. If only I could retire. If only . . . And then one day we catch an echo of our grandfather’s voice as we wonder where the time has gone. It’s all so short!

One of the great lies is that we need to be somewhere else, doing something else, with someone else before we can truly start living.

We who come to Christ may do so because we seek eternal life. Ironically, if we do, we miss the larger point. Jesus offers us life now. In the same context of promising His followers eternal life (John 10:28), He said, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (v.10).

When we find life in Jesus, we begin to exchange regrets over life’s brevity for the pure enjoyment of its eternality. —Tim Gustafson

1 Samuel 28:1-25 ‹

How does John 6:27 challenge our view of life 
on this earth? In verse 32 what does the phrase “true bread from heaven” mean, and what does it lead to?
Think of the times when you’ve been impatient. What might God have been teaching you in those moments? How does the brevity of life motivate you? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: No Substitute Needed

April 1, 2013 

READ: Psalm 139:1-12 

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? —Psalm 139:7 

While I was visiting my son in San Diego, we decided to go to Shadow Mountain Church to hear Dr. David Jeremiah preach. Steve and I got up early on Sunday morning and took the hour-long drive to the church. But our anticipation turned to disappointment when we discovered that Dr. Jeremiah was not there that day. “Some other guy”—a substitute—was preaching.

A couple of weeks later, I was scheduled to preach at the church in Grand Rapids where my wife and I attend. As I stood in front of the congregation, I realized that now I was “some other guy” and they might be disappointed because they had come to hear our pastor—not me—speak.

While we find comfort in the familiarity of those we depend on in life, we have to recognize that at times they can be substituted. But the One we need most—the One on whom we depend for life itself—is always present (Ps. 139:7-8). When we desire to enter God’s presence in prayer, He is always there: “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice” (55:17).

Looking for God? He’s always right there. No substitute needed.

— Dave Branon

Dear Lord, I am so thankful that You are always present.
I never need to make an appointment to speak to You,
the God of the universe. No matter where I go or what
time it is, I can depend on Your presence.

When you come to the Lord, there is no waiting line—His ears are always open to your cry. 

ODJ: a private problem

April 1, 2013 

READ: Proverbs 27:1-17  

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume (v.9).

Pastor. Husband. Father. Sex addict.

Nate Larkin’s addiction first began after he visited the red-light district. He was on a sponsored field trip at the time, intending to educate Bible college students about the sex industry. 

Eventually, Larkin would—as he put it—“toggle” between two lives. His double life included viewing pornography first thing in the morning (even on Sunday mornings before taking to the pulpit to preach an hour later). In deep conflict with himself, he longed for “a private solution to [his] private problem”.

God’s solution didn’t involve confidentiality. When Larkin’s wife discovered his obsession, he decided to “get out of [his] private world and go somewhere else for help.” That “somewhere else” was a group of men with similar struggles. Together they lived out James 5:16, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

Being accountable to others, however, will work only if we’re done with deceit. Fellow believers can’t help unless we reveal the true depth and frequency of our sin. Honesty with others shows that we’re serious about sin, and it also pleases God (Proverbs 12:22).

Accountability also involves receiving correction when necessary. This means listening to and acting on “an open rebuke” (27:5) rather than being swayed by people who flatter us and enable our unhealthy habits (28:23). Accountability partners can receive the insights of others who have ‘been there’. Through this the addict discovers that “the heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume” (27:9).

Ultimately only Jesus can forgive and cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:9), while freeing us from our cravings (Romans 8:37). And honest and humble relationships with other Christians can help us stay close to Him as we veer away from our private obsessions. —Jennifer Benson Schuldt

› 1 Samuel 25:1-42

Read Proverbs 21:2 to see why God must be at the centre of addiction recovery. 
How does friendship 
play a role in addiction? What will you do the next time you’re compelled to satisfy a craving?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Knee-Deep In Daffodils

March 31, 2013 

READ: Luke 24:13-34 

The Lord is risen indeed! —Luke 24:34 

When the first flowers of spring bloomed in our yard, my 5-year-old son waded into a patch of daffodils. He noticed some debris from plants that had expired months before and remarked, “Mom, when I see something dead, it reminds me of Easter because Jesus died on the cross.” I replied, “When I see something alive—like the daffodils—it reminds me that Jesus came back to life!”

One reason we know Jesus rose from the grave is that, according to the gospel of Luke, He approached two travelers headed to Emmaus 3 days after His crucifixion. Jesus walked with them; He ate dinner with them; He even gave them a lesson in Old Testament prophecy (24:15-27). This encounter showed the travelers that Jesus conquered the grave—He had risen from the dead. As a result, the pair returned to Jerusalem and told the disciples, “The Lord is risen indeed!” (v.34).

If Jesus had not come back to life, our faith as Christians would be pointless, and we would still be under the penalty of our sin (1 Cor. 15:17). However, the Bible tells us that Jesus “was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25 niv). Today, we can be right with God because Jesus is alive!

— Jennifer Benson Schuldt

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him He’s always near.
—Alfred Ackley © Renewal 1961. The

The empty cross and the empty tomb provide a full salvation.