ODJ: To the Lonely

May 23, 2018 

READ: 1 Kings 19:1-21 

The people of Israel have broken their covenant with you. . . .I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too (v.10).

In 2017, two surveys highlighted the growing number of lonely people in the UK. One report claimed that some eight million men felt lonely at least once a week, with an estimated three million experiencing it every day. Another survey of more than 2,000 people suggested that nearly 75 percent of young people with disabilities suffered from loneliness.

While some believe isolation is particularly prevalent today—the price paid for our modern lifestyle—feelings of loneliness have been around for a long time. The prophet Elijah, who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of King Ahab, frequently felt isolated and lonely (1 Kings 18–19). God used him to defeat 450 prophets of Baal and in answering his prayer for rain brought an end to a three-year drought (18:19-46). Despite this, when Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, threatened to kill him, Elijah ran scared. All alone, he headed into the wilderness and prayed, “I have had enough, LORD. . . . Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died” (19:1-4).

Although God sent an angel to comfort and sustain Elijah, he still felt alone (vv.5-9). “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too” (v.10).

As feelings of isolation threatened to overwhelm Elijah, God made Himself known to His servant (vv.11-13), encouraging him to return to the work he’d been called to and reminding him he wasn’t alone (vv.14-21).

God gave Elijah renewed hope and purpose in his time of loneliness. He’s there for you in your loneliness too.

—Ruth O’Reilly-Smith

365-day plan: Isaiah 53:1-12

MORE
Read Psalm 34:18 and consider how God draws close to us when we feel lonely and troubled. 
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Do you feel lonely or do you know someone who feels that way? Why can you trust that God is aware of your situation and is with you? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: The Babushka Lady

May 23, 2018 

READ: Acts 2:22–36 

Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah. Acts 2:36

 

The “Babushka Lady” is one of the mysteries surrounding the 1963 assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. Captured on film recording the events with a movie camera, she has proven to be elusive. This mystery woman, wearing an overcoat and scarf (resembling a Russian babushka), has never been identified and her film has never been seen. For decades, historians and scholars have speculated that fear has prevented the “Babushka Lady” from telling her story of that dark November day.  

No speculation is needed to understand why Jesus’s disciples hid. They cowered in fear because of the authorities who had killed their Master (John 20:19)—reluctant to come forward and declare their experience. But then Jesus rose from the grave. The Holy Spirit soon arrived and you couldn’t keep those once-timid followers of Christ quiet! On the day of Pentecost, a Spirit-empowered Simon Peter declared, “Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36).

The opportunity to boldly speak in Jesus’s name is not limited to those with daring personalities or career ministry training. It is the indwelling Spirit who enables us to tell the good news of Jesus. By His strength, we can experience the courage to share our Savior with others.

— Bill Crowder

Lord, please give me the strength and boldness to talk to others about You.


Speak of the matchless love of Christ to those who need to hear.  

ODJ: Looking like Jesus

May 22, 2018 

READ: Matthew 7:1-6,15-23 

Not everyone who calls out to me, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter (v.21).

Years ago I knew a legislative assistant who suddenly joined a church. That seemed out of character for him, so I asked him about it. “I’m thinking about running for office,” he admitted, “and my boss told me it looks good.”

Contrast that story with Max (not his real name), who works in a country where it’s dangerous to declare your belief in Jesus. Yet he started a house church to share Christ with his neighbours.

It takes genuine commitment to attend Max’s church. But what about those who identify as believers in areas where it’s normal to call yourself a Christian? Should we judge the validity of each other’s faith?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presented a paradox. He said, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1). But just a bit later He warned, “Beware of false prophets”, and told us how to detect them (v.15). “A good tree produces good fruit,” He said, “and a bad tree produces bad fruit” (v.17). Then He added, “Just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (v.20). But isn’t that judging?

In the first instance Jesus is instructing us to be self-discerning. We have no business judging others because our focus should be on what we need to repent of. In contrast to that, Jesus teaches us to be wary of false teachers. We’re to judge their deeds to see if they can be trusted as brothers and sisters in Christ. And clearly, they can’t. Their bad fruit proves their false religion (vv.17-18).

I didn’t need to judge my friend; I needed to share my faith with him. Ultimately, the key question to ask isn’t, “Is that person a true believer?” but rather, “Do I have a passion to obey Jesus?”

—Tim Gustafson

365-day plan: Isaiah 6:1-13

MORE
Read the following verses and consider what you learn about the nature of an authentic God-pleasing life: Matthew 26:39; John 4:34, 6:38. 
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Prayerfully consider where your heart is consistently taking you. What will it take for you to experience a greater hunger and passion for Jesus? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Up a Tree

May 22, 2018 

READ: Jonah 2:1–10 

In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. Jonah 2:2

 

My mother discovered my kitten Velvet atop the kitchen counter, devouring homemade bread. With a huff of frustration, she scooted her out the door. Hours later, we searched our yard for the missing cat without success. A faint meow whistled on the wind, and I looked up to the peak of a poplar tree where a black smudge tilted a branch.

In her haste to flee my mother’s frustration over her behavior, Velvet chose a more precarious predicament. Is it possible that we sometimes do something similar—running from our errors and putting ourselves in danger? And even then God comes to our rescue.

The prophet Jonah fled in disobedience from God’s call to preach to Nineveh, and was swallowed up by a great fish. “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: ‘In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me’ ” (Jonah 2:1–2). God heard Jonah’s plea and, “commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (v. 10). Then God gave Jonah another chance (3:1).

After exhausting our efforts to woo Velvet down, we summoned the local fire department. With the longest ladder fully extended, a kind man climbed high, plucked my kitten from her perch, and returned to place her safely in my arms.

Oh the heights—and the depths—God goes to in rescuing us from our disobedience with His redeeming love!

— Elisa Morgan

Dear God, how we need Your rescue today!


Jesus’s death on the cross rescued us from our sins.