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ODJ: Compelling Grace

My friends in my Bible discussion group chuckled when I shared how I was trying to avoid God. I smiled, but it was no joke. His promptings to overlook my demands for justice and extend grace filled me with resentment. I felt like shaking my fist (as the prophet Jonah might have done) and screaming, “You want me to go where, and do what?!”

Assyria was Israel’s bitter enemy—a wicked nation that delighted in unspeakable acts of cruelty. No one was more deserving of judgement. When God sent Jonah to preach in the Assyrian city of Nineveh, he took off for Tarshish instead—away from the presence of the Lord (Jonah 1:3). The prophet would have benefited from my friends’ counsel. “You can’t run away from God,” they told me. “He knows how to find you.”

They were right.

God pursued Jonah with a raging tempest—subsiding only when he was thrown into the sea. Then God provided a fish’s belly in which the prophet would cool his fleeing heels (v.17). Finally, Jonah did obey God’s voice. But the indignation he had felt at the call bubbled over when the Ninevites actually repented (3:6-10). Filled with rage, Jonah declared that he’d “rather be dead” than see his enemies saved (4:1-3). But God didn’t see vile, wicked people. He saw lost souls in need of salvation (v.11).

Like Jonah, I found myself pursued by God’s grace and mercy. Everywhere I turned, images and messages of the cross were waiting to confront me. My demands for justice paled when compared to those of God’s holiness in light of my sin. His grace compelled me to humbly face the accusations flung at me, for Jesus made the ultimate exchange—His righteousness for my lack thereof. Rejoicing in that truth, I heard Him whisper, “Go and do the same” (Luke 10:37).

—Remi Oyedele

365-day plan: Esther 6:1-7:10

May 7, 2016 

READ: Jonah 1:1-17, 4:1-3,11  


Then God said to Jonah, ldquo;Is it right for you to be angry . . . ?” “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” (4:9). 

My friends in my Bible discussion group chuckled when I shared how I was trying to avoid God. I smiled, but it was no joke. His promptings to overlook my demands for justice and extend grace filled me with resentment. I felt like shaking my fist (as the prophet Jonah might have done) and screaming, “You want me to go where, and do what?!”

Assyria was Israel’s bitter enemy—a wicked nation that delighted in unspeakable acts of cruelty. No one was more deserving of judgement. When God sent Jonah to preach in the Assyrian city of Nineveh, he took off for Tarshish instead—away from the presence of the Lord (Jonah 1:3). The prophet would have benefitted from my friends’ counsel. “You can’t run away from God,” they told me. “He knows how to find you.”

They were right.

God pursued Jonah with a raging tempest—subsiding only when he was thrown into the sea. Then God provided a fish’s belly in which the prophet would cool his fleeing heels (v.17). Finally, Jonah did obey God’s voice. But the indignation he had felt at the call bubbled over when the Ninevites actually repented (3:6-10). Filled with rage, Jonah declared that he’d “rather be dead” than see his enemies saved (4:1-3). But God didn’t see vile, wicked people. He saw lost souls in need of salvation (v.11).

Like Jonah, I found myself pursued by God’s grace and mercy. Everywhere I turned, images and messages of the cross were waiting to confront me. My demands for justice paled when compared to those of God’s holiness in light of my sin. His grace compelled me to humbly face the accusations flung at me, for Jesus made the ultimate exchange—His righteousness for my lack thereof. Rejoicing in that truth, I heard Him whisper, “Go and do the same” (Luke 10:37).

—Remi Oyedele

365-day plan: Esther 6:1-7:10

MORE
Read Luke 15:25-32 and think about how the prodigal son’s older brother reacted to his return. 
NEXT
Is there a person or situation in your life that has caused you great pain? What does the reality of God’s grace contribute to your response or reaction? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

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ODJ: Never Beyond God’s Grace

My springer spaniel was recognised as one of the most talented, hardworking dogs in our hunting community. He would go out on thin ice to retrieve game when other dogs would turn back. Pursuing a pheasant through the thickest bramble and thorn—areas that other dogs would not enter because it was so dense—wasn’t a problem. His determination was so great that he even made a retrieval immediately after breaking his leg! And yet, when he was just 18 months old, I wondered if he would ever be a good hunting dog. His determined personality seemed impossible to harness and I was ready to give up on him because it appeared he would never become an obedient companion.

Saul of Tarsus once appeared to be a lost cause too. Just look at the darkness of his heart when he “agreed completely with the killing of Stephen” (Acts 8:1). He stood by and nodded approval as an innocent man was battered to death. Then he sought assistance in attacking other men and women and throwing them in jail, simply because he hated what they believed (9:1-2). His determination to be cruel and hateful knew no bounds. Surely this was a man beyond the reach of God’s grace! Surely the best thing was to sit back and await His judgment, right?

Yet God transformed Saul (later known as Paul) in an instant! (vv.5-6). All the venom and hatred was washed away as he became one of the most influential believers of all time. He simply refused to keep quiet once he came to know Christ (vv.20-22).

Isn’t it amazing how sometimes the worst offenders become the most passionate followers? Perhaps this is because they know what they’ve been saved from (Luke 7:47). No one is beyond the reach of Jesus—no one!

—Russell Fralick

365-day-plan: 1 Kings 1:5-27

April 11, 2016 

READ: Acts 9:1-22 


“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting” (v.5). 

My springer spaniel was recognized as one of the most talented, hardworking dogs in our hunting community. He would go out on thin ice to retrieve game when other dogs would turn back. Pursuing a pheasant through the thickest bramble and thorn—areas that other dogs would not enter because it was so dense—wasn’t a problem. His determination was so great that he even made a retrieval immediately after breaking his leg! And yet, when he was just 18 months old, I wondered if he would ever be a good hunting dog. His determined personality seemed impossible to harness and I was ready to give up on him because it appeared he would never become an obedient companion.

Saul of Tarsus once appeared to be a lost cause too. Just look at the darkness of his heart when he “agreed completely with the killing of Stephen” (Acts 8:1). He stood by and nodded approval as an innocent man was battered to death. Then he sought assistance in attacking other men and women and throwing them in jail, simply because he hated what they believed (9:1—2). His determination to be cruel and hateful knew no bounds. Surely this was a man beyond the reach of God’s grace! Surely the best thing was to sit back and await His judgment, right?

Yet God transformed Saul (later known as Paul) in an instant! (vv.5—6). All the venom and hatred was washed away as he became one of the most influential believers of all time. He simply refused to keep quiet once he came to know Christ (vv.20—22).

Isn’t it amazing how sometimes the worst offenders become the most passionate followers? Perhaps this is because they know what they’ve been saved from (Luke 7:47). No one is beyond the reach of Jesus—no one!

—Russell Fralick

365-day-plan: 1 Kings 1:5-27

MORE
Read Acts 17:16—34 and see how God used Paul and his zeal to reach others. 
NEXT
Read Acts 17:16—34 and see how God used Paul and his zeal to reach others. 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

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ODJ: the tone of grace

I once had a difficult interaction with one of my sons. He had made several poor choices requiring a serious conversation. My son had a tender heart, however (as he often does), and he took responsibility for his behavior. Though I was frustrated with him, I told him that I forgave him. Later, aware that something was still bothering my son, I asked what was going on. “Well,” he replied, “you said you forgave me, but you didn’t exactly say it in a lovely tone.” My son picked up how I offered the right words, but the way I spoke told a different story. I said I forgave him, but I didn’t interact with a tone of grace.

The prophet Isaiah wrote to God’s people, warning them of the hardships they would endure because of their stubborn and persistent refusal to be true to the One to whom they belonged. Even though the “darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,” this darkness would not ultimately consume Judah (Isaiah 60:2). In fact, eventually the very nations God had used to get the attention of God’s people would be the same “foreigners [who] will come to rebuild [their] towns” (v.10). God’s entire posture was, beginning to end, infused with grace. Even His sternness came wrapped in grace.

The families of God’s people would be reunited. The temple, as well as Jerusalem, would return to its magnificence and glory (vv.1-3). The people would erupt in joy and revelry. All would be well. All would be grace.

When God forgives us, He forgives us through and through—holding nothing back. He doesn’t harbor resentment or look at us with disdain. It’s not merely that He chooses to make a gracious gesture toward us, for His tone is gracious and kind.

—Winn Collier

365-day-plan: Exodus 32:1-29

February 16, 2016 

READ: Isaiah 60:1-10 


I will now have mercy on you through my grace (v.10). 

I once had a difficult interaction with one of my sons. He had made several poor choices requiring a serious conversation. My son had a tender heart, however (as he often does), and he took responsibility for his behavior. Though I was frustrated with him, I told him that I forgave him. Later, aware that something was still bothering my son, I asked what was going on. “Well,” he replied, “you said you forgave me, but you didn’t exactly say it in a lovely tone.” My son picked up how I offered the right words, but the way I spoke told a different story. I said I forgave him, but I didn’t interact with a tone of grace.

The prophet Isaiah wrote to God’s people, warning them of the hardships they would endure because of their stubborn and persistent refusal to be true to the One to whom they belonged. Even though the “darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,” this darkness would not ultimately consume Judah (Isaiah 60:2). In fact, eventually the very nations God had used to get the attention of God’s people would be the same “foreigners [who] will come to rebuild [their] towns” (v.10). God’s entire posture was, beginning to end, infused with grace. Even His sternness came wrapped in grace.

The families of God’s people would be reunited. The temple, as well as Jerusalem, would return to its magnificence and glory (vv.1-3). The people would erupt in joy and revelry. All would be well. All would be grace.

When God forgives us, He forgives us through and through—holding nothing back. He doesn’t harbor resentment or look at us with disdain. It’s not merely that He chooses to make a gracious gesture toward us, for His tone is gracious and kind.

—Winn Collier

365-day-plan: Exodus 32:1-29

MORE
Read Psalm 139:17-18. How does the psalmist describe God’s thoughts concerning us? Does the idea of God having “precious” thoughts about you change the way you think He views you? 
NEXT
Where is it most difficult for you to believe that God always moves toward you with grace? How would it change your posture toward God (and yourself) if you believed that God’s heart is always gracious toward you? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

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ODJ: no ordinary family tree

A website claims that it can help you make connections to your past as you learn more of your ancestry. They offer to take you, the customer, on a journey through your family genealogy that will “cross generations and continents, all to reveal the untold story of how you became you.”

For some, delving into genealogies is a hobby. For Matthew (the author of the first book in the New Testament), the genealogy of Jesus—stretching all the way to King David and Abraham—was so much more (Matthew 1:1).

Some of us might yawn at the thought of reading through Matthew’s long list of familiar and unfamiliar names, especially the ones we struggle to pronounce. But a closer look reveals that this is no ordinary family tree.

First and foremost, the genealogy establishes that the birth of Jesus is exactly what the Israelites, all the way back to Abraham, had been waiting for (v.16). Breaking away from the tradition of only mentioning men, Matthew also included women—some of whom, like their male counterparts, were not exactly model citizens.

There’s Tamar who had sex with her father-in-law in order to fulfill an ancient Hebrew custom (Genesis 38:6-11,14). Rahab was a prostitute and a Canaanite outsider (Joshua 2:1-21). Ruth was a foreigner from Moab—one of Israel’s archenemies (Deuteronomy 23:3-6; Ruth 1:1-5). And finally, there’s Bathsheba, who committed adultery with King David (2 Samuel 11:1-5).

Why did Matthew include these individuals? It seems that he went out of his way to say clearly that the child whose birth ends the list of this family tree grew up to be the One through whom the Creator of heaven and earth will redeem all sorts of messed-up people—like you and me.

—Jeff Olson

365-day-plan: Hebrews 11:1-40

December 17, 2015 

READ: Matthew 1:1-17 


This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham (v.1).  

A website claims that it can help you make connections to your past as you learn more of your ancestry. They offer to take you, the customer, on a journey through your family genealogy that will “cross generations and continents, all to reveal the untold story of how you became you.”

For some, delving into genealogies is a hobby. For Matthew (the author of the first book in the New Testament), the genealogy of Jesus—stretching all the way to King David and Abraham—was so much more (Matthew 1:1).

Some of us might yawn at the thought of reading through Matthew’s long list of familiar and unfamiliar names, especially the ones we struggle to pronounce. But a closer look reveals that this is no ordinary family tree.

First and foremost, the genealogy establishes that the birth of Jesus is exactly what the Israelites, all the way back to Abraham, had been waiting for (v.16). Breaking away from the tradition of only mentioning men, Matthew also included women—some of whom, like their male counterparts, were not exactly model citizens.

There’s Tamar who had sex with her father-in-law in order to fulfill an ancient Hebrew custom (Genesis 38:6-11,14). Rahab was a prostitute and a Canaanite outsider (Joshua 2:1-21). Ruth was a foreigner from Moab—one of Israel’s archenemies (Deuteronomy 23:3-6; Ruth 1:1-5). And finally, there’s Bathsheba, who committed adultery with King David (2 Samuel 11:1-5).

Why did Matthew include these individuals? It seems that he went out of his way to say clearly that the child whose birth ends the list of this family tree grew up to be the One through whom the Creator of heaven and earth will redeem all sorts of messed-up people—like you and me.

—Jeff Olson

365-day-plan: Hebrews 11:1-40

MORE
Read Luke 3:23-28. How does this genealogy differ from Matthew’s? 
NEXT
What’s one special thing you can do to celebrate the birth of Jesus this year? How has His grace saved you from a messed-up state? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)