Entries by YMI

ODJ: a song of hope

March 16, 2013 

READ: Luke 1:39-56 

You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said (v.45).

Fearful of its subversive text and implications, the Guatemalan government of the 1980s banned the public reading or singing from Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:47-55). It’s the poetic hymn Mary sang after the angel had announced that she would give birth to a baby from God. One might wonder how a tender song from sweet Mary about a little baby could possibly be a threat to powers of any political regime. We typically hear this text in beautiful choral arrangements during Christmas holidays, and the whole affair seems quite docile. We need to hear it again.

When Mary sang this song, Herod sat on the throne. Herod was a vile ruler who had murdered his own children to stay in power and who had taxed the destitute and poor in order to build grand edifices. Soon, after learning that a rival King had been born, Herod would murder the male babies in every Israelite family “in and around Bethlehem” (Matthew 2:16) in order to squash Him. If that were not enough, above Herod sat the Roman emperor ruling with an iron fist.

Picture being an Israelite under the despot Herod’s rule and you will hear Mary sing of one coming from God who has a “mighty arm” and one who “has scattered the proud and haughty ones” (Luke 1:51). Mary has your attention. Then she sings stunning words, describing the one who “has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble” (v.52). With these words, your hopes resurface. God’s promises, given long ago by the prophets, are not forgotten. God will bring justice. No wonder Herod had the baby boys murdered.

Mary’s song offers an anthem for every oppressed generation: God will overcome. —Winn Collier

Read Isaiah 11:1-9, one of the Old Testament’s most famous prophecies. This text stood as a backdrop to Mary’s song. Where do you see similar themes?
How does Mary’s song give you hope? Where in your life do you need to sing (and believe) her song?

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ODB: Jesus’ Eyes

March 15, 2013 

READ: Mark 5:1-20 

[Jesus] was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. —Matthew 9:36 

We were in line at the ice cream store when I noticed him. His face bore the marks of too many fights—a crooked nose and some scars. His clothes were rumpled, though clean. I stepped between him and my children, using my back to erect a wall.

The first time he spoke, I didn’t hear him clearly and so just nodded to acknowledge him. I scarcely made eye contact with him. Because my wife wasn’t with me, he thought I was a single parent and gently said, “It’s hard raising them alone, isn’t it?” Something in his tone made me turn to look at him. Only then did I notice his children, and I listened to him tell me how long his wife had been gone. His soft words contrasted with his hard exterior.

I was duly chastened! Once again I had failed to see beyond outward appearances. Jesus encountered people whose outward appearance could have turned Him away, including the demon-possessed man in our reading for today (Mark 5:1-20). Yet He saw the heart-needs and met them.

Jesus never fails to see us with love, even though we have scars of sin and a rumpled nature that shows in our stutter-step faithfulness. May God help us to replace our haughtiness with Jesus’ heart of love.

— Randy Kilgore

Father, may the focus of our lives never disrupt
our ability to see others with the same eyes that
Jesus sees them. Grant us Your heart.
May we yearn to introduce others to You.

If you look through the eyes of Jesus, you’ll see a needy world. 

ODJ: disney’s gospel

March 15, 2013 

READ: Philippians 3:1-11 

We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though 
I could have confidence 
in my own effort if 
anyone could (vv.3-4).

As my family was leaving the park after a fun day at Disney, the loudspeakers were playing a happy song with the chorus, “In everything you do, celebrate you!” The song reminded me of the earlier parade that encouraged us to celebrate our dreams, “whatever they are”. My 12 year old son, the apparent cynic in the family, proclaimed that his dream was to take over the world. Should that be celebrated? My dream was for free refills, but that was dashed too.

Disney seems to be selling smiles and self-esteem. This makes good business sense, as no one would hang out in a place that berated them for their shortcomings. Disney has amazing amusement parks, and the quickest way to amuse people is to play catchy songs that tells them they’re great.

I understand that, but it’s still important to spell out the message of Disney to see how it stacks up against the gospel. Those who unreflectively hum the world’s songs are most likely to be influenced by them.

The Disney gospel encourages narcissism. It suggests that our main problem is that we don’t celebrate ourselves enough, so others don’t realise how special we are. This positive message is actually cruel, for the poor fellow who follows their advice—“In everything you do, celebrate you!”—won’t be married long. And he won’t have many friends.

The apostle Paul offered a far better gospel. He confessed that he was a sinner; so despite his strong reasons to feel superior, all his accomplishments were “worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). The truth is we are special, far more than a Disney song can tell. It’s because we belong to Jesus. So in everything you do, celebrate Him. —Mike Wittmer

Ruth 1:1-22 ‹

Read Colossians 
3:12-25 to learn how 
we should live “in everything we do”.
Why is it important to consider the words of your favourite songs? What lyrics have subtly influenced your mind and heart?

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ODB: Black Boxes

March 14, 2013 

READ: 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 

These things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition. —1 Corinthians 10:11 

Commercial aircraft carry two flight-data recorders called “black boxes.” One logs the performance and condition of the aircraft in flight, and the other records the conversation of the crew with air-traffic controllers on the ground. These boxes are insulated to protect against extreme temperatures and are fitted with underwater locator beacons that emit sounds to the surface. After an airplane crash, these boxes are retrieved and the data carefully analyzed to determine the cause of the crash. Air safety experts want to learn from past mistakes, among other things, so they won’t be repeated.

As Christians, we too should look at mistakes from the past and learn from them. Paul, for example, alluded to some of the mistakes the Israelites made in their journey from Egypt to Canaan. He wrote that because God was not pleased with them, many died in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:5). Paul went on to explain that “these things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age” (v.11 nlt).

The inspired Word of God is written for our instruction for living (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Thank You, Lord, for the guidance of Your Word.

— C. P. Hia

For Your holy Book we thank You;
May its message be our guide,
May we understand the wisdom
Of the truth Your laws provide. —Carter

God’s warnings are to protect us, not to punish us. 

ODJ: guilt and grace

March 14, 2013 

READ: Acts 3:9-19 

Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away (v.19).

One of the exciting milestones I witnessed in my
 daughter’s development was when she first 
 learned to walk at 9 months. She pulled herself up to a standing position while holding onto a coffee table and took her very first step! Learning to bend her knees to sit after standing, and then mastering the standing position, she was soon cruising around the house. She was walking independently at 12 months.

For more than 40 years the beggar in Acts 3 never had the joy of standing up (4:22). He was crippled from birth. A miracle changed all that. In an instant he was walking and jumping, drawing the attention of everyone in the temple (3:6-10). Peter and John soon found themselves surrounded by thousands of worshippers (v.11, 4:4).

Seizing the opportunity, Peter preached the good news (3:12-16). Twice Peter told the crowd, “Through faith in the name of Jesus, this man was healed” (v.16).

Contrasting the wrong they had done to Jesus, Peter told of the good God had done for them. They put Jesus to death on the cross (Galatians 3:13), but God honoured Jesus through the cross (v.13). They condemned the “holy, righteous one” but had acquitted a wicked murderer (Acts 3:14). This is the very basis of God’s salvation plan—the substitutionary, propitiatory death of Jesus (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:5-6)—the sinless Saviour taking the place of sinful man (Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2, 3:5). They killed the “author of life,” but God raised Jesus to offer them His resurrection life (Acts 3:15).

Peter convicted them of their guilt but conferred upon them God’s grace. For when guilt is admitted, “God’s wonderful grace became more abundant” (Romans 5:20-21). And when we repent of our sins and turn to God, our sins are wiped away (Acts 3:19). Our guilt is consumed by His grace. —K.T. Sim

› Judges 16:22-31

Read Romans 5:1-2, 6-20, and Titus 3:3-7 
to see how God’s grace interacts and nullifies man’s guilt.
Twice Peter said that this man was healed by “faith in Jesus’ name” (Acts 3:16). What does 
it mean for you to have this kind of faith?

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Living Testament

March 13, 2013 

READ: 2 Timothy 2:1-10 

Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel. —2 Timothy 2:8 

Watchman Nee was arrested for his faith in Christ in 1952, and he spent the rest of his life in prison. He died in his jail cell on May 30, 1972. When his niece came to collect his few possessions, she was given a scrap of paper that a guard had found by his bed. On it was written his life’s testimony:

“Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and was resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ—Watchman Nee.”

Tradition says that the apostle Paul also was martyred for his faith in Christ. In a letter written shortly before his death, Paul exhorted his readers: “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble . . . ; but the Word of God is not chained” (2 Tim. 2:8-9).

We may not be called upon to be martyred as witnesses to the reality of Christ—as millions of His followers through the centuries have been—but we are all called to be a living testament of Jesus’ work on our behalf. No matter the outcome, from a heart of gratitude for God’s gracious gift we can tell others what Jesus has done for us.

— Dennis Fisher

The Christ of God to glorify,
His grace in us to magnify;
His Word of life to all make known—
Be this our work, and this alone. —Whittle

Let your life as well as your lips speak for Christ. 

ODJ: worn out by money

March 13, 2013 

READ: 1 Timothy 6:8-19 

Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit (Proverbs 23:4).

The Internet is crawling with ‘get rich quick’ schemes—adverts that promise loads of cash with little effort and/or skills required. Simply apply the special techniques offered in their training material, and it won’t be long before you’re independently wealthy—or so they say. And you can do it all from the comfort and convenience of your home! Hmm . . .

The curious, desperate and the naïve are the ones who typically fall prey to such outlandish offers. The wary, however, can see right through scams. They know that there’s no such thing as ‘easy money’. But even they, if they’re not careful, can fall into the trap of wearing themselves out by chasing long and hard after wealth.

The book of Proverbs states, “Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle” (Proverbs 23:4-5).

Whatever approach we take to earning money, the apostle Paul warned, “People who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). Paul goes on to note that some who “love” money “have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (v.10). This parallels what Jesus taught in the parable of the sower—that the lure and deceitfulness of wealth makes us unfruitful for God’s kingdom (Matthew 13:22).

It’s true that we must earn money to pay for the basic necessities of life. Cash can also be used to help the needy and bring a little bit of heaven to earth and the “least of these” (25:40). But a love affair with getting rich will only wear us out and ruin our testimony for Jesus. —Jeff Olson

Note what King Solomon wrote about those who “love money” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
What is your biggest struggle with money? How can you use it for Jesus’ glory instead of your own desires and ambitions?  

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ODB: Riches Of The Soul

March 12, 2013 

READ: Proverbs 30:1-9 

Give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me. —Proverbs 30:8 

With the hope of winning a record jackpot of $640 million, Americans spent an estimated $1.5 billion on tickets in a multistate lottery in early 2012. The odds of winning were a staggering 1 in 176 million, but people stood in lines at grocery stores, gas stations, and cafes to buy a chance to become rich. Something inside us makes us think more money will solve our problems and improve our lives.

A man identified in the Bible as Agur had a different perspective on riches when he asked God to grant him two requests before he died.

First, he said, “Remove falsehood and lies far from me” (Prov. 30:8). Integrity is a key to living without anxiety. When we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. Deceit enslaves; honesty liberates. Second, he said, “Give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me” (v.8). Contentment springs from trusting God as our supplier and gratefully accepting what He provides. Agur said of the Creator that He “established all the ends of the earth. . . . He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” (vv.4-5).

Integrity and contentment are riches of the soul that are available to all. Our Lord is pleased to give these treasures to everyone who asks.

— David C. McCasland

Contentment does not come from wealth—
It’s not something you can buy;
Contentment comes to give you peace
When you depend on God’s supply. —Branon

Discontentment makes us poor
while contentment makes us rich! 

ODJ: toxic environment

March 12, 2013 

READ: Deuteronomy 12:29-32 

Do not fall into the trap of . . . worshipping their gods (v.30).  

Two dolphins—Shadow and Chelmers—died of a drug overdose at a marine park in Switzerland. Forensic experts suppose that partygoers at a nearby club placed a heroinlike substance into the dolphins’ tank water. The dolphin trainers who found Chelmers described him as “shaking all over and foaming at the mouth.” Based on these symptoms and the presence of buprenorphine in the dolphins’ bodies, it seems likely that the dolphins died due to their toxic environment.

It’s somewhat surprising that God led His own people 
into a land that was toxic in a spiritual sense. It was polluted with idolatry. To prepare them for this challenge, Moses said, “When the Lord your God goes ahead of you and destroys the nations . . . do not fall into the trap of following their customs and worshipping their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:29-30). To make sure they weren’t infected by any of the poisonous practices, Moses commanded them to break down the pagan altars, smash sacred pillars, cut down carved idols and burn the Asherah poles (v.3).

After all that work was finished, God knew His children could still be enticed to worship false gods. This temptation could come from phony prophets, family members and even close friends. God considered that seductive situation to be a test. If the Israelites tuned in to their peers and tuned Him out, God would know that they lacked wholehearted love for Him.

Today many of us live in toxic environments where the threat of idolatry is less obvious, but just as dangerous. Letting culture dictate our worship may mean bowing down to celebrity talent, proudly revelling in our children’s accomplishments or honouring nature rather than the Creator. Consider smashing the ‘not so obvious’ idols in your life so that you can better follow the first commandment (Exodus 20:3).

—Jennifer Benson Schuldt

To learn about idolatry’s pointless nature, read Psalm 115:4-8. Read 1 Kings 18:21 to see Elijah’s challenge to Baal worshippers. Read Hebrews 12:28-29 for more on worshipping God.
Why is idolatry sometimes difficult to spot in our modern world? Why is it significant that “You must not have any other gods before Me” precedes the other commandments?

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