Entries by YMI

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?

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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?

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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?

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ODB: You’re Necessary

January 18, 2013 

READ: 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 

But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it. —1 Corinthians 12:24 

The story has been told about a conductor who was rehearsing his orchestra. The organ was giving a beautiful melody, the drums were thundering, the trumpets were blaring, and the violins were singing beautifully. But the conductor noticed something missing—the piccolo. The piccolo player had gotten distracted and hoped his instrument wouldn’t be missed. The conductor reminded him: “Each one of us is necessary.”

This was essentially the same message Paul communicated to the Corinthian believers in his first letter to them (12:4-7). Every Christian plays an important role in the body of Christ. Paul gave a list of gifts of the Spirit and compared their use to the functioning of the various parts of the human body for the good of the whole (vv.8-10). The Corinthian believers may have had different cultural backgrounds, gifts, and personalities, but they were filled with the same Spirit and belonged to the same body of Christ. Paul made special mention of the parts of the body that were weak and obscure, and taught that all believers play a necessary and significant role. No one part was more necessary than any other.

Remember, Jesus has given you a significant part to play and will use you to build up His people.

— Marvin Williams

The church, a living body, containing all the parts—
It lives, it moves, it functions, and touches many hearts;
When each part is committed to do the Savior’s will,
His members are united, His purpose they fulfill. —Fitzhugh

As a member of the body of Christ,
you are a necessary part of the whole. 

ODJ: toughest critic

January 18, 2013 

READ: Proverbs 25:11-13 

Honest words can be painful, but what do your criticisms amount to? (Job 6:25).

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? 
In my case I know my friend means well, but she often forcefully sends critical comments without seeking my consent to receive her insights. With that in mind I so appreciate how Paul pursued the consent of his friend Philemon (Philemon 1:14). 

When my ‘frenemy’ sent me an unsought email a few weeks ago, listing my faults and suggesting that I have only two areas of giftedness, naturally I was upset. Yet, rather than praying and asking God how to handle the insults, I did a Google search. I looked up “bully” and other synonyms that I felt described my overbearing, highly opinionated friend.

It was easy to find words and articles to confirm that my friend was speaking inappropriately to me, but I was still left without a solution. So I called a wise friend. She suggested that instead of turning to the Internet, I turn to God. “Ask the Lord to help you filter the letter,” she said. “Ask Him to help you cling to what is true and expose the lies. Ask God if the enemy is trying to tap into lies you believe about yourself through your friend’s letter.”

Her advice reiterated the proverb that states, “Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket” (Proverbs 25:11). It’s good for us to listen to advice (v.12), but we should ask God to help us discern whether or not the criticism is valid. If our messenger is trustworthy, even if the message brings conviction and points out areas where we need change, it will yield refreshment (v.13). Make sure you gain permission before bringing criticism to a friend. —Roxanne Robbins 

What do you think is the difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism? (See Proverbs 15:31.)
When insulted by a friend, consider this passage by Andrew Peterson, “What defence have I but to flee? Not to flee from the enemy, but to the protection of the King” (Behold the Lamb, 2011). How can you be more Christlike in your criticism?

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