Entries by YMI

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

According to 1 Peter 3:13-17, how do we maintain a clean and clear conscience in a hostile society? 
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

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).
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!)

ODB: What Is That To You?

January 6, 2013 

READ: John 21:15-22 

What is that to you? You follow Me. —John 21:22 

When you attend a children’s choir concert, you’re not surprised when the children look everywhere but at the director. They wiggle, squirm, and poke each other. They stand on tiptoes to search for parents in the audience. They raise their hands to wave when they see them. Oh, yes, and they occasionally sing. We smile at their antics. The behavior is cute in children. It’s not so cute when adult choir members don’t watch the conductor. Good music depends on singers who pay attention to the director so they can stay together as they sing.

Christians sometimes are like singers in a children’s choir. Instead of looking at Jesus, the great Conductor of the symphony of life, we are busy squirming or looking at each other or watching the audience.

Jesus admonished Peter for such behavior. After He told him what would be required of him, Peter pointed to John and asked, “What about him?” Jesus answered with a question: “What is that to you? You follow Me” (John 21:22).

Sometimes we are distracted by what others are doing. We think God’s plan for their life is better than His plan for ours. But God’s plan for each of us is the same: Follow Jesus. When we watch Him intently, we’ll not be distracted by God’s plan for anyone else.

— Julie Ackerman Link

My times are in my Father’s hand;
How could I wish or ask for more?
For He who has my pathway planned,
Will guide me till my journey’s o’er.Fraser

Every child of God has a special place in His plan. 

ODJ: the shrinking self

January 6, 2013 

READ: Jonah 1:1-17 

But Jonah . . . went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord (v.3). 

My boys like to play tag. For the moment I can still outrun them. One of our favourite spots to play is a place in our neighbourhood. It’s an oddly shaped, grassy area that narrows on both ends. My boys have the habit of running to one of the corners at the field’s edge. They think they’re creating distance from me, but they’re really only putting themselves into a corner. I give them room to roam; and then when they think they’re safe and far away, I close in. Rather than escaping, they realise that their world has shrunk.
Jonah was a prophet, which means that he was one who spoke for God. When God told Jonah to travel to Nineveh, however, and “announce [God’s] judgement,” Jonah ran (Jonah 1:2-3). He headed for Joppa, a city in the opposite direction. 

When he ran, Jonah’s world steadily shrank. The disobedient prophet joined a ship sailing for Tarshish and jumped aboard. He “was sound asleep down in the hold,” literally “down in the far reaches of the vessel” (v.5). Jonah thought he was escaping; but if he had noticed, he would have clearly seen that his world was closing in around him. Soon enough Jonah would be trapped in the belly of a large fish. At that point his world consisted of merely a tight circle. 

Jonah was running from God, but he was also running from himself. Jonah’s identity was as a prophet, but Jonah didn’t want to do what God commanded. He didn’t want to speak God’s message to a people he hated. As a result it was not only Jonah’s world that was shrinking—but himself. Jonah was becoming less his true self, less the person God had created him to be. When we run from God, we aren’t merely running—we’re shrinking. —Winn Collier

Read 1 John 4. Note the various facts we’re told about our identity—who and what we are through God. How would running away from these truths diminish us?
In what area are you most tempted to run from God? How does this running make you less your true self?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Time Out

January 5, 2013 

READ: Acts 11:19-26; 13:1-3 

Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. —Acts 13:3 

El Bulli restaurant, 2 hours north of Barcelona, is so popular that customers must reserve a table 6 months in advance. But noted Spanish chef Ferran Adrià decided to close the doors of his award-winning restaurant for 2 years so he and his staff could have time to think, plan, and innovate. Adrià told Hemispheres Magazine, “If we are winning all the prizes, why change? Working 15 hours a day leaves us very little time to create.” In the midst of great success, they took time out for what is most important to them.

The first-century church in Antioch experienced a time of exciting growth when “a great number believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). As a result, Barnabas and Saul came to teach the new believers (vv.25-26). But along with the hard work, they took time to seek the Lord through prayer and fasting (13:2-3). Through this, God revealed His plan for taking the gospel into Asia.

Few people can take 2 years off to think and plan. But all of us can build time into our schedule to seek the Lord earnestly through prayer. As we open our hearts and minds to God, He will be faithful to reveal the steps of life and service that honor Him.

— David C. McCasland

There is a blessed calm at eventide
That calls me from a world of toil and care;
How restful, then, to seek some quiet nook
Where I can spend a little time in prayer. —Bullock

Prayer is as important as breathing. 

ODJ: turning away

January 5, 2013 

READ: 2 Corinthians 7:1-11 

The kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation (v.10).

His tears revealed the sincerity of his sorrow. My young friend, a member of the youth group I work with, was torn up inside. For years he had used drugs. Then he began selling them to others. Now, no longer dealing, his heart was broken as he considered the many children and youth that he turned on to drugs. He saw them sinking into self-destruction and he felt terrible.
We talked about the forgiveness that only God could provide. Some of the key Scriptures we discussed included 2 Corinthians 7:10, which reads, “The kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation”; also, 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 

The young man, a believer in Jesus, repented of his sin done to others and to himself. He then acknowledged that he wanted to forever turn away from using drugs (something he has continued to do). The repentance he displayed is the type that the apostle Paul wrote about to the church at Corinth—a true, spiritual repentance. Paul wrote, “There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

By God’s grace we don’t have to live in worldly sorrow. It can be devastating (see what Judas did in Matthew 27:3-6). It’s a sorrow that doesn’t lead us to repent but to attempt to deal with issues in our own power—something futile and harmful.

God calls us to repent and turn away from our sin. Doing so will be revealed in our ‘earnestness’, ‘concern’, ‘indignation’, ‘alarm’, ‘zeal’, and ‘readiness’ before Him. This turning away is all about doing “everything necessary to make things right” (2 Corinthians 7:11). —Tom Felten

Note what Peter said to a person in need of repentance (Acts 8:22-23). Why is it important for us to turn away from sin in genuine repentance? 
What do you need to bring to God in repentance? What does it mean for you to ‘turn away’ from your sin once you’ve confessed it to Him?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Help Yourself

January 4, 2013 

READ: Psalm 146 

Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God. —Psalm 146:5 

Recently, I saw a television ad for a restaurant chain that made a dramatic claim. At those restaurants, the ad said you could “Help Yourself to Happiness.” Wouldn’t it be nice if a helping of potatoes or meat or pasta or dessert would be all that was needed to provide happiness? Unfortunately, no restaurant can fulfill that promise.

Happiness is an elusive thing—as we can see in almost every area of life. Our pursuit of happiness may involve food or a host of other things, but, in the end, happiness continues to escape our grasp.

Why? In large measure it’s because the things we tend to pursue do not touch the deepest needs of our hearts. Our pursuits may provide moments of enjoyment, distraction, or pleasure, but the cry of our hearts goes unheard—the cry for help and hope. That is why the psalmist points us to a better way when he says, “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Ps. 146:5).

Help yourself? Yes—if we are seeking the happiness found in the Lord. It is only when we entrust ourselves to God and His care that we can find the happiness we seek. Our hope and help are found only in trusting Him.

— Bill Crowder

Father, draw me to Yourself. Remind me that only
in You will I know the real joy and satisfaction that
my heart longs for. Help me to look beyond the
surface things of life to what really matters.

The one who puts God first will have happiness that lasts.