Entries by YMI

ODJ: dinner and a sinner

January 23, 2013 

READ: Luke 7:36-50 

When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this Man were a prophet, He would know what kind of woman is touching Him. She’s a sinner!” (v.39).

Several years ago, while on holiday in America, my family noticed a large crowd forming in front of a popular theater. The word on the street was that Colin Powell, the American Secretary of State at the time, was coming to the theater that evening to watch a play. We quickly learned that watching high-ranking public officials come and go was a favourite pastime of tourists.
In Jesus’ day the locals often lingered around the banquet halls and homes of public figures. Once, as Jesus attended a meal hosted by a Pharisee named Simon, a local woman approached Him, washed His feet with her tears, dried them with her hair and anointed them with a costly perfume (Luke 7:36-39). 

Her actions were a stunning gesture of humility and love. Simon (the Pharisee), however, didn’t get it. In his thoughts, he disregarded Jesus for appearing to be unaware of the woman’s immoral reputation (v.39). Little did he know that Jesus knew everything about her and that, before dinner was over, Jesus would graciously invite Simon to see that he was no different.

Simon considered the woman kneeling at Jesus’ feet to be an especially depraved sinner. But Jesus went on to make it clear to Simon that he was just like this woman, for he too needed to be forgiven. He was just as spiritually bankrupt as she, except that she ‘got it’ and humbly turned to Jesus—offering Him a deep gesture of love (vv.41-47). 

Blinded by his selfishness, Simon not only missed seeing his own need for forgiveness, but he didn’t understand who Jesus was. The One he had invited to dinner was and is the God who offers forgiveness and peace to all, no matter what they’ve done (vv.48-50). —Jeff Olson

How well do you understand who Jesus is? In what ways do you identify with the woman who washed His feet? With Simon?
Why do we struggle to choose grace in moments of frustration? What’s at the root of our desire to make our frustrations or hurt known to those who have wronged us?

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ODB: Choose Your God

January 22, 2013 

READ: Joshua 24:14-18 

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. —Joshua 24:15 

I recently saw a commercial for an online game based on Greek mythology. It spoke about armies, mythological gods, heroes, and quests. What got my attention was the description of how to get the game started. You go online to register, choose your god, then build your empire.

Wow! “Choose your god.” Those words, though presented casually in the ad, struck me as being characteristic of one of the most dangerous things about our world. In a game, it may be insignificant what “god” you choose; but in the real world that choice has eternal consequences.

To a generation of Israelites surrounded by the gods of their day, Joshua declared that they must choose their god—but it must not be done in a cavalier way. He set the example as he said, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

Today, as in the days of Joshua, there are many options. But there is only one wise choice—the true God. Joshua made the right choice. “We will serve the Lord.”

— Bill Crowder

The gods of this world are empty and vain,
They cannot give peace to one’s heart;
The living and true One deserves all our love—
From Him may we never depart. —D. DeHaan

Nothing can fill the emptiness in your heart except God. 

ODJ: freely given

January 22, 2013 

READ: Ephesians 1:1-11

He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding (v.8).

At the end of a long day, I took a moment to get a head start on my work emails—striving to preempt any surprises I might face at 8 o’clock the next morning. Frustration ebbed throughout my tired mind as I read an email that contained complaints and feelings of entitlement from a student known to be immature in his responses to life’s challenges. I wanted to send back a veiled sting of reproach, but instead I crawled into bed to think through my response. Getting to the root of my frustrations, I ignored my first inclinations and seized the opportunity to model grace.
Grace, a foundational belief of our Christian theology and experience, often remains in the abstract of our walk rather than the daily practice. In moments of frustration, the desire for a fair hearing rises up in our hearts. We rush to prove others wrong in their perceptions and to defend our cause. Whether uttered outright or in our hearts, we look for the opportunity to triumph.

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul reminds the believers that we have access to “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ” (1:3). Sometimes we forget, however, that this spiritual treasury holds the grace necessary to extend kindness where we would otherwise demand an “eye for an eye” (Matthew 5:38-44). 

Far from being a philosophical ideal, grace first became visible through Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9; Titus 2:11). In our lives it must be the same. Just as Jesus chose to love us when we had nothing to offer, our ability to extend grace is not measured by those moments when we believe someone has our back. Rather, grace takes on flesh in our lives when we offer love where we could otherwise demand vindication. —Regina Franklin 

Read Titus 3:3-7 and consider how this passage is essential to our interactions with others.
Why do we struggle to choose grace in moments of frustration? What’s at the root of our desire to make our frustrations or hurt known to those who have wronged us?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Open Arms

January 21, 2013 

READ: Luke 15:11-24 

When he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. —Luke 15:20 

At the funeral of former US First Lady Betty Ford, her son Steven said, “She was the one with the love and the comfort, and she was the first one there to put her arms around you. Nineteen years ago when I went through my alcoholism, my mother . . . gave me one of the greatest gifts, and that was how to surrender to God, and to accept the grace of God in my life. And truly in her arms I felt like the prodigal son coming home, and I felt God’s love through her. And that was a good gift.”

Jesus’ parable about a young man who asked for and squandered his inheritance and then in humiliation returned home leaves us amazed at his father’s response: “When he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). Instead of a lecture or punishment, the father expressed love and forgiveness by giving him a party. Why? Because “this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (v.24).

Steven Ford concluded his tribute with the words, “Thank you, Mom, for loving us, loving your husband, loving us kids, loving the nation, with the heart of God.”

May God enable us to open our arms to others, just as His are open wide to all who turn to Him.

— David C. McCasland

Lord, help me be kind and forgiving—
Your loving forgiveness You’ve shown
To me for the sins I’ve committed;
Lord, grant me a love like Your own. —Anon.

Forgiven sinners know love and show love. 

ODJ: rebuilding the altar

January 21, 2013 

READ: Ezra 3:1-6 

Jeshua . . . joined his fellow priests . . . in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel. They wanted to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, as instructed in the Law of Moses (v.2). 

I love knowledge. As a child, after stumbling across a picture Bible in the library, I wanted to read the real Bible. I had the impression that it was simply a thick book with tiny words, full of information like an encyclopedia. But as I read the real Bible I realised that knowledge is good but wisdom is much, much better. 
Their first step was not to rebuild the temple. Instead they chose to rebuild the altar (vv.2-3). The altar was the place where God met with His people (Exodus 29:42-43). It was impossible for sinful people to have fellowship with the Holy God. So burnt offerings had to be sacrificed to God as atonement for sins: “the Lord will accept [the animal’s] death in your place to purify you, making you right with Him” (Leviticus 1:3-4). These burnt offerings pointed to God’s perfect ‘once for all’ sacrifice for sins—Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29; Hebrews 9:12-14). The altar was the place of repentance and renewal, cleansing and acceptance by God. His people rebuilt the altar at the beginning of their work, for they first needed to get right with God! 

Three times we’re told that they sacrificed burnt offerings “as instructed in the Law of Moses” (Ezra 3:2,4), “as prescribed by the Lord” (v.5). Their new beginning was characterised and evidenced by their obedience to God’s Word.

God graciously offers you the opportunity of a fresh start with Him. But you must return from ‘Babylon’ and come to the cross of Calvary—the altar where Jesus was sacrificed to atone for your sins. That’s the starting point of new beginnings. —K.T. Sim

Read Genesis 8:20-21, 12:7-8, 35:1-4, and 1 Kings 18:30-32 to gain insight into new beginnings with God.
Each New Year promises the opportunity to start afresh—the prospect of a new beginning. The Israelites had been a rebellious and disobedient people. After 70 years of exile they were allowed to return home to Judea. They were also given the necessary help and resources to rebuild their temple (Ezra 1). They could start afresh with God. But how do you start afresh with Him? 

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ODB: A Song To Remember

January 20, 2013 

READ: Deuteronomy 31:16-22 

Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect. —Deuteronomy 32:3-4 

I was delighted when I received a free gift in the mail—a CD of Scripture set to music. After listening to it several times, some of the melodies took root in my mind. Before long, I could sing the words to a couple of verses in the book of Psalms without the help of the recording.

Music can help us recall words and ideas we might otherwise forget. God knew that the Israelites would forget Him when they entered the Promised Land (Deut. 31:20). They would forsake Him, turn to idols, and trouble would follow (vv.16-18). Because of this, He asked Moses to compose a song and teach it to the Israelites so they could remember their past closeness with Him and the sin that hurt their relationship (31:19-22). Perhaps most important, God wanted His nation to recall His character: “[God] is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (32:4).

Consider what God might want you to remember about Him today. Is it His power, His holiness, His love, or His faithfulness? Can you think of a song that celebrates God’s character? Sing it in your heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:19).

— Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Give me a spirit of praise, dear Lord,
That I may adore Your name,
Sing praises from the depths of a grateful heart
To the One who is always the same. —Dawe

Remembering God’s goodness puts a song in your heart. 

ODJ: keep all

January 20, 2013 

READ: Leviticus 19 

You must be careful to keep all of My decrees and regulations by putting them into practice. I am the Lord (v.37). 

I love knowledge. As a child, after stumbling across a picture Bible in the library, I wanted to read the real Bible. I had the impression that it was simply a thick book with tiny words, full of information like an encyclopedia. But as I read the real Bible I realised that knowledge is good but wisdom is much, much better. 
Today I recognise that I need to view life in the light of God’s Word. It’s not simply about knowing His Word, I need to have a comprehensive working knowledge of it. As finite beings, however, we have a natural tendency to emphasise certain passages in the Bible and to neglect others. 

For example we might frown if someone considers getting a tattoo: “Do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:28). Yet, we might politely excuse that same person for missing church, or turn a blind eye to her disrespect toward the elderly. In the same passage, God said, “Keep my Sabbath days of rest, and show reverence toward my sanctuary. I am the Lord” (v.30) and “Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the Lord” (v.32). 

So, how can we “be careful to keep all of [God’s] decrees”? (v.37). 

John MacArthur’s prayer gives us a clue, “God, we know [that knowing You and Your Word] is more than academic. We know it’s more than just reading and mentally comprehending. It’s to be filled with that knowledge, to love it, to cherish it, to find ourselves saturated by it and in our minds to be able to draw principles that can be applied in acts of spiritual understanding and issue in a worthy walk.” 

May this be our prayer too. —Poh Fang Chia

Note how John MacArthur’s prayer echoes the words of the apostle Paul in Colossians 1:9-10. 
How can you ensure that your study of God’s Word isn’t merely academic? What would it take for you to acquire a comprehensive working knowledge of the Bible?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Ready For Glory

January 19, 2013 

READ: Philippians 1:12-23 

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. —Psalm 116:15 

On March 1, 1981, preacher and Bible commentator D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones lay on his deathbed. From 1939 to 1968, he had served as the pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel. Now at the end of his life, Lloyd-Jones had lost the ability to speak. Indicating that he did not want any more prayers for his recovery, he wrote on a piece of paper: “Do not hold me back from glory.”

Because life is precious, it can be hard to let our loved ones go when the time comes for them to depart this earth and go to heaven. And yet God has set a time when He plans to call us home. Psalm 116:15 tells us, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”

When Paul saw that death was near, he was encouraged by what awaited him in heaven: “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).

No matter where Christians are in life’s journey, their ultimate destination is to “be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). This should give us confidence in facing life’s challenges and comfort when other believers leave us for that glorious home Christ has prepared.

— Dennis Fisher

The glories of heaven await
All those who believe in God’s Son;
The trials of this life will fade
When we see the Heavenly One. —Sper

Life’s greatest joy is the sure hope of heaven. 

ODJ: He broke our fall

January 19, 2013 

READ: John 10:1-20 

I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep (v.11). 

Have you, like me, ever had a person in your life who in many ways is a friend, but is also your toughest critic? If so, do you wonder how to respond properly to this person? 
Last year Brad Pitt was hobbling around with a cane after having torn his ACL—a ligament in his knee. He told reporters, “I was carrying my daughter down the hill and I slipped. It was either her or me” who would get hurt. Brad Pitt loved his daughter so much that took the brunt of the fall for her. Obviously, Pitt is not Jesus and tearing an ACL wasn’t death, but his sacrifice for his daughter is an illustration of the way Jesus sacrificed His life and carried wounds and death in His body for us. Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). 

One of the responsibilities of a good shepherd was to protect the sheep from danger. He would lie across the opening of the gate at night to ward off dangerous predators. He would not just lie there to frighten away wild animals, but if necessary the good shepherd would give his life for his sheep. 

When Jesus said He was the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep, He knew that humanity was in mortal danger from sin and the only way people could be saved was through His supreme sacrifice. He knew He would die (v.11). 

Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and He proved it by giving His life for our benefit (vv.14,17-18). He was falsely accused, condemned to die, mocked, beaten beyond recognition, spat upon and nailed to the cross. He took the pain and punishment that should have been ours. He absorbed the impact of sin and death in His own body so that He could overcome our fall and save our lives. 

Just as He has sacrificed His life to save ours, we’re obligated to thank Him and make sacrifices to break the fall of others. —Marvin Williams 

Based on 1 John 3:16, what should be your response to Jesus’ sacrifice for us? How will you live this out? 
How can you show your gratitude to Jesus today for His sacrifice for you? What sacrifice can you make for someone else this week?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)