Entries by YMI

ODB: Spiritual Sight

January 10, 2013 

READ: Ephesians 1:15-21 

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. —Ephesians 1:7 

A prisoner who survived 14 years in a Cuban jail told how he kept his spirits up and his hope alive: “I had no window in my cell, and so I mentally constructed one on the door. I ‘saw’ in my mind a beautiful scene from the mountains, with water tumbling down a ravine over rocks. It became so real to me that I would visualize it without effort every time I looked at the cell door.”

Ironically, some of the most hopeful books of the Bible—Philippians, Colossians, and Ephesians—come out of Paul’s house arrest in Rome. The letter to the Ephesians gives a hint as to what the apostle Paul saw when he thought about life beyond his place of confinement.

First he saw the spiritual growth in the churches he left behind. This book opens with a burst of thanksgiving for the vitality of the Ephesian church (Eph. 1:15-16). Then he sought to open the eyes of their hearts to even more exalted sights: the “exceeding riches” of God’s grace (2:7). When Paul cranks up the volume to express God’s plan of love, not one low, mournful note sneaks in.

If you feel discouraged or question whether the Christian life is worth it, Ephesians proves to be a great tonic. It prescribes the riches in Christ available to all.

— Philip Yancey

Heavenly Father, thank You for the staggering
good news of the riches of Your infinite grace.
Thank You for the encouragement and hope
we find in Ephesians. Amen.

No one is hopeless whose hope is in God and His Word. 

ODJ: dying for Jesus?


January 10, 2013 

READ: Romans 12:1-2 

I plead with you to give your bodies to God. . . . Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him (v.1).


The director at a missions conference challenged the participants to consider fulltime missionary work—calling for those who were willing to die for Jesus to stand up and to receive prayer. No one did. Discouraged, he complained to the senior pastor. The pastor said, “Don’t fret if no one is willing to die for Jesus. Worry if no one is wanting to live for Jesus!”

In Romans 12 Paul makes a call for radical commitment. “I plead with you to give your bodies to God” (v.1). Paul wasn’t telling us to die for Jesus. He told us to do the reverse—to live for Him! “Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind [God] will find acceptable” (v.1).

In the Old Testament, propitiatory sacrifices (Leviticus 1:4-5) were offered to atone for sin, “making that person right with the Lord” (7:7); and dedicatory sacrifices (Leviticus 2–3) were voluntarily offered “as an expression of thanksgiving . . . as a gift to the Lord” (7:12-14).

Jesus offered Himself as the atoning sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2). His physical body was broken for us (Romans 8:3, Colossians 1:22). In response we are often exhorted to give our hearts to Jesus. But here Paul is asking us to offer our physical bodies as dedicatory sacrifices—as thanksgiving offerings to God. They are to be “a living sacrifice”. If you’re grateful, you’ll “give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you” (Romans 12:1).

The demand of discipleship isn’t to die for Jesus but to die to sin and self! (Romans 6:2,10-11, 8:12-13; Colossians 3:5; 1 Peter 2:24). Jesus died to give us new life (Rom. 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17). “Those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ” (5:15). —K.T. Sim

MORE
How do you die to sin and self in order to live for Christ? (Romans 6:1-14; Colossians 3:1-10). How do you “honour God with your body”? (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
 
NEXT
In practical terms, what does it mean for you to offer yourself as a “living and holy sacrifice” that is acceptable to Christ? How does Jesus’ sacrifice inspire you to serve Him? 
 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

Reborn Identity

January 9, 2013 

READ: Luke 19:1-10 

If I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold. —Luke 19:8 

It was a perfect day for our garage sale—bright and warm. People rummaged through clothing, paperbacks, and mismatched dishes. I noticed a young woman looking at a string of white beads. A few minutes later, the necklace vanished along with its admirer. I spotted her in the street, jogged the length of my driveway, and discovered the missing jewelry nestled in her palm. As we faced each other with the knowledge of what had happened, she volunteered to pay for the stolen item.

Zacchaeus, the tree-climbing tax collector, met Jesus and was changed. He vowed to repay four times the amount of money he had dishonestly taken from others (Luke 19:8). In those days, tax collectors frequently overcharged citizens and then pocketed the extra funds. Zacchaeus’ eagerness to pay back the money and to donate half of what he owned to the poor showed a significant change of heart. He had once been a taker, but after meeting Jesus he was determined to make restoration and be a giver.

Zacchaeus’ example can inspire us to make the same kind of change. When God reminds us about items we have taken, taxes left unpaid, or ways we have wronged others, we can honor Him by making it right.

— Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Help me, dear Lord, to be honest and true
In all that I say and all that I do;
Give me the courage to do what is right
To bring to the world a glimpse of Your light. —Fasick

A debt is never too old for an honest person to pay. 

ODB: Making It Right

January 9, 2013 

READ: Luke 19:1-10 

If I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold. —Luke 19:8 

It was a perfect day for our garage sale—bright and warm. People rummaged through clothing, paperbacks, and mismatched dishes. I noticed a young woman looking at a string of white beads. A few minutes later, the necklace vanished along with its admirer. I spotted her in the street, jogged the length of my driveway, and discovered the missing jewelry nestled in her palm. As we faced each other with the knowledge of what had happened, she volunteered to pay for the stolen item.

Zacchaeus, the tree-climbing tax collector, met Jesus and was changed. He vowed to repay four times the amount of money he had dishonestly taken from others (Luke 19:8). In those days, tax collectors frequently overcharged citizens and then pocketed the extra funds. Zacchaeus’ eagerness to pay back the money and to donate half of what he owned to the poor showed a significant change of heart. He had once been a taker, but after meeting Jesus he was determined to make restoration and be a giver.

Zacchaeus’ example can inspire us to make the same kind of change. When God reminds us about items we have taken, taxes left unpaid, or ways we have wronged others, we can honor Him by making it right.

— Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Help me, dear Lord, to be honest and true
In all that I say and all that I do;
Give me the courage to do what is right
To bring to the world a glimpse of Your light. —Fasick

A debt is never too old for an honest person to pay. 

ODJ: don’t stop


January 9, 2013 

READ: Jeremiah 20:7-18 

They will fight you, but they will fail. For I am with you, and I will take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken! (1:19).


He was alone for most of his ministry. It seemed that no one cared to hear his words. He was draggedoff against his will to live his final days in exile. He was a failure as far as how the world judges human achievement. Jeremiah (alias ‘the weeping prophet’) was his name. 
Reading about the course of Jeremiah’s difficult ministry, I’ve wondered if he ever looked back at the day God called him into service; and did he question God for seemingly not keeping His end of the bargain (Jeremiah 1:19). I know I would have. 


And I’m glad to discover that Jeremiah did. His complaint was recorded in Jeremiah 20:7-18. His candid words are helpful.


Like him, when we see no fruit from our work and receive mockery as a reward, we too may feel cheated by God. We may be tempted to throw in the towel and call it quits. 


Jeremiah, however, moved beyond his moods and did the will of God—regardless of how he felt. He was compelled to proclaim God’s Word. Remembering God’s promises, Jeremiah’s prayer led to him breaking out in worship (vv.11-13). But this euphoria didn’t last long. With his next breath he was cursing the day he was born (v.18). 


Fortunately he picked himself up after his depressing words. Jeremiah 20 is the last of Jeremiah’s recorded laments. In the remaining 32 chapters, we find that the prophet remained faithful to his call. 


Francis Schaeffer wrote: “What does God expect of Jeremiah? What does God expect of every man who preaches into a lost age like ours? I’ll tell you what God expects. He simply expects a man to go right on. He doesn’t scold a man for being tired, but neither does He expect him to stop his message because people are against him.” —Poh Fang Chia


MORE
Read 2 Corinthians 4 for Paul’s reasons for not giving up even though his ministry was challenging.
 
NEXT
How have you questioned God’s calling in your life? What keeps you going when you face hardship?
 

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ODB: Where Sinners Go

January 8, 2013 

READ: Romans 5:6-15 

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8 

My friend was having a conversation with a man who didn’t have much good to say about the Christian faith. My friend knew that if he were to sound too “religious,” he would jeopardize any chance to witness. So, in the middle of their discussion, he said, “Hey, Bob, do you know where sinners go?”

“That’s easy,” he replied. “You’re going to tell me they go to hell.”

“No,” my friend responded. “They go to church.”

Bob was speechless. That wasn’t what he expected. He wasn’t ready to hear from a Christian who realized he wasn’t perfect. My friend had a chance to share that Christians understand their sinfulness and their need for continual spiritual restoration. He was able to explain grace—the unmerited favor we have with God despite our sinfulness (Rom. 5:8-9; Eph. 2:8-9).

Perhaps we don’t give those outside the church a clear picture of what’s happening inside. They may not understand that we’re there to praise our Savior for providing “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14).

Yes, sinners go to church. And sinners—forgiven ones—go to heaven because of God’s grace.

— Dave Branon

We’re far from perfection, yet perfect forever,
For Christ is our righteousness, Lord, and our Savior;
No justification for sin can we offer,
Yet sanctified fully, we’re now His forever. —Lee

A church is a hospital for sinners, not a club for saints. 

ODJ: clean conscience 


January 8, 2013 

READ: Titus 1:10-16 

Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted (v.15).


According to a 2008 character survey of nearly 30,000 secondary school students, 64 percent of them said they had cheated on a test in the past year, 30 percent had stolen from a shop, 42 percent said they would lie to save money and 83 percent said they had lied to their parents about something significant. One of the more interesting findings of the survey was that 93 percent of the students surveyed said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character. These students seem to have a clear case of what the Bible calls a “corrupted” conscience (Titus 1:15). 
What does the Bible say are indicators of a corrupted conscience? When people continually entertain thoughts of evil or practice deeds of evil, they have defiled their conscience (Genesis 6:5; Titus 1:15-16). Secondly, when they to listen to moral and wise advice, but are bent on listening to and following the delusional counsellor of their wicked hearts, they sear their conscience (Exodus 7:14, 8:15; Jeremiah 17:9). Thirdly, wherever there is little or no shame over sin and moral failure, that person has corrupted his or her conscience (Jeremiah 6:15). Willful pretense, lies and an impenitent heart are the poisons that wither the beauty of a conscience that has been cleansed by Christ (Acts 5:2; Romans 2:5; 1 Timothy 4:2). Never wholly reliable, our conscience can only be purified by God (Psalm 51:10). He does so through the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:14). 


As followers of Jesus, our individual consciences can become more sensitive to right and wrong as we grow in spiritual knowledge and obedience. This includes allowing the Holy Spirit to convict us when we’re wrong and approve us when we’re right. It also means confessing and repenting of sin immediately (1 John 1:9).


—Marvin Williams


MORE
According to 1 Peter 3:13-17, how do we maintain a clean and clear conscience in a hostile society? 
 
NEXT
Why are spiritual knowledge and godly obedience so important in maintaining a clean conscience? Spend time confessing sins that the Holy Spirit has convicted you of recently.
 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Fully Equipped

January 7, 2013 

READ: 2 Timothy 3:14-17 

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God . . . that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:16-17 

Karl Elsener, a Swiss designer of surgical equipment in the 19th century, worked for years on perfecting a military knife. Today his Swiss Army Knife is associated with excellence in blades and a variety of utilities. One model includes knife blades, a saw, scissors, a magnifying glass, a can opener, a screwdriver, a ruler, a toothpick, a writing pen, and more—all in one knife! If you are out camping in the wild, this one item can certainly make you feel equipped for survival.

We need something to equip us to survive spiritually in this sinful world. God has given us His Word, a kind of spiritual knife for the soul. Paul writes: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

The word translated equipped means to “furnish or fit completely.” How does the Bible equip us for life’s journey? It provides spiritual truth in doctrine; reproof in showing our imperfections; correction by revealing our sinful failures; and instruction in living a righteous life. There’s not a more valuable tool than God’s Word to make us fully equipped for spiritual survival and personal growth.

— Dennis Fisher

Lord, thank You for equipping us with Your
inspired Word. You’ve given us the tools we
need to live for You. Help us to take time to read
it and to follow what You tell us. Amen.

The Bible contains the nutrients we need for a healthy soul. 

ODJ: victorious faith


January 7, 2013 

READ: 1 Peter 1:5-7 

So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honour on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world (v.7).


Tukutana, the nonprofit organisation I direct in East Africa, is funding the education of a young lady named Acayo Sarah. She survived one of Africa’s longest running wars in history, but not without wounds. When Sarah was just 13 years old the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) rebels attacked her village in northern Uganda. After killing her mother and father in front of her, the ruthless men abducted, raped and impregnated Sarah. Just before her baby was born, Sarah managed to escape from her captors and fled to her uncle’s village.
As I’ve got to know Sarah in the aftermath of the horrors that stripped her of family and innocence, I have developed the deepest respect for the teenage girl. Sarah’s joy and determination to complete school—so she can devote her future to helping others—shouts the essence of 1 Peter 1:5-7:


• Your faith will be visible to all (v.5).


• Wonderful joy lies ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while (v.6).


• Your trials will lead to genuine faith (v.7).


• Your strong faith, through trials, will bring you much praise and glory and honour on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world (v.7).


I marvel at Sarah’s faith and strength in Jesus Christ—faith that has been proven victorious over the darkest of crimes committed against her (Romans 8:37). Indeed, Sarah confidently trusts the Lord to take care of her (Psalm 27:1-3).


When trials come our way, let’s be careful not to throw away our confident trust in the Lord. Instead let’s ask God for the patient endurance that we need to face the tough times. —Roxanne Robbins


MORE
What would your faith look like, in the midst of a trial, if you held “tightly without wavering to the hope [you] affirm”? (Hebrews 10:23).
 
NEXT
Pray for Sarah and other brothers and sisters in Christ who have faced extreme hardships and yet are moving forward, faithfully trusting the Lord. What will help you experience victorious faith? 
 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)