ODJ: that name

May 18, 2013 

READ: 1 Peter 4:12-19 

When [Barnabas] found [Paul], he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year....(It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.) (Acts 11:26).

Back in 2001 Mark Cuban, owner of an American basketball team called the Dallas Mavericks, offered radio sports show host David Kaplan more money than he would make in a year to change his name legally to “Dallas Maverick”. When Kaplan politely declined, Cuban sweetened the offer. Cuban would pay Kaplan double his original offer and also donate the same amount to Kaplan’s favourite charity if he took the name for one year. After some soul searching Kaplan held firm and told Cuban, “No.” Kaplan explained: “I’d be saying I’d do anything for money, and that bothers me. My name is my birthright.”

Just as Kaplan’s name is his birthright, early followers of Jesus took on the name “Christian” as their lifetime birthright. As Barnabas and Saul ministered in Antioch, they taught great numbers of people. Through the ministry of the Spirit and preaching of the gospel, the church continued to grow numerically (Acts 2:41,47, 4:4, 5:14, 6:1, 9:31, 11:21,24). 

These early believers in Antioch were living so much like Jesus Christ that people who didn’t follow Jesus gave them the name “Christians”. The ending ‘ian’ meant belonging to the party of; thus “Christians” were those who belonged to Christ. Bearing that name ultimately became a source of persecution, but Peter encouraged believers not to be ashamed of their birthright and suffering for bearing the name “Christian” (1 Peter 4:14-16).

For the follower of Jesus, “Christian” is our birthright, and no amount of money, suffering or abuse should cause us to compromise that name. On the contrary that name should be a source of praise to God, for it identifies us with Christ and the blessings of salvation (v.13). We have a responsibility to live every day to bring honour to the name of Jesus and the name “Christian” (v.19).—Marvin Williams

Read Philippians 3:10-11 and see what Paul said about his identity with Jesus and the hope associated with it.
When are you most tempted to compromise the name “Christian”? What distinguishable marks do you bear that could lead people to associate you with Jesus?

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ODJ: amenities

May 17, 2013 

READ: Luke 9:21-26 

He said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me” (v.23).

Amenities. Surprisingly I heard someone use that word in describing a church they had chosen to attend. I understood that the individual was referring to the different ministries the church had to offer, but I was also reminded of the big difference between a fishing boat and a cruise liner.

In His last words to His followers, Jesus commanded them to “go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). In short He has called us all to be fishers of men. Without question, the life of a believer is fulfilling. But we miss the heart of the gospel when we make our commitments based on how much something has to offer us or whether it fits our needs. 

The church is God’s chosen instrument to be the visible presence of His kingdom. Certainly it’s appropriate for churches to reach out to the community around them through events, programmes and ideas that speak the gospel in practical, livable ways. Likewise, the church needs to be a place where individuals feel a sense of connection to others in their local body of believers. 

But in all things we must be authentic. At its core the Christian walk is one of faith, and if we believe Hebrews 11 to be true, then there are those believers who never saw the complete fulfilment of their hopes this side of heaven (vv.35-40). In reaching the lost or in discipling believers, we must not present Jesus as if He functions like a bank—put something in, get something out. We have the riches of heaven in our possession because He suffered for us (Hebrews 2:10; 1 Peter 2:21, 4:1).

Our faith in Christ must go deep enough that we too are willing to suffer for Him because we know He loved us first (Luke 9:23-24; 2 Timothy 3:12).—Regina Franklin

Read Acts 14:19-23 and consider what motivated Paul in his life. How does today’s church compare?
What do you see as the role of your local church in your life? What kind of investment have you made in reaching those who are lost?

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ODJ: my greatest enemy

May 10, 2013 

READ: Galatians 5:16-26 

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives (v.25).

A Christian leader was once asked: “Who is your greatest enemy?” He replied, “Every morning I see him in the mirror.” Perhaps that’s the real reason why some of us are facing challenges in our marriage, school, work or church. The person who’s giving us a hard time isn’t our spouse, our boss or someone else. We are our own worst enemy.

Today’s reading in Galatians 5 explains why. Review the list of relational woes that Paul mentioned in Galatians 5:20-21, “hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, [and] envy.” The general impression created by these words is an absence of peace and joy, and the common feature is a root of self-centredness or egocentricity. 

Paul says that these are “acts of the flesh” (v.19 NIV). And he goes on to tell us that there’s a better way to live. He wrote, “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (v.16). In other words we need to surrender control. Our conduct needs to be directed by the “Holy Spirit [who] produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (vv.22-23). 

With that said, consider that the word “guide” in verse 16 can also be translated as ‘walk’. Bible scholar Leon Morris comments, “Even though walking was slow and unspectacular, walking meant progress. If anyone kept walking, she or he would certainly cover the ground and eventually reach the destination. So for the apostle, walking was an apt metaphor. If any believer was walking, that believer was going somewhere.” 

How can you experience love, joy and peace in your life? Walk by the Spirit!—Poh Fang Chia

Read Romans 8:3-14 for additional reasons why we ought to walk in the Spirit and not obey the desires of our sinful nature.
What activities will you you be involved in this week? Visualise how it will look as you choose to yield to and walk by the Spirit. How will your attitude, words and behaviour change?

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ODJ: clear of corruption

May 5, 2013 

READ: Psalm 26:1-12 

Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart (v.2).

An advisor I recently consulted was highly recommended by a large, established Christian organisation. At first I had a positive experience with him as he helped me navigate the complicated immigration laws in Uganda. The second time around, however, the man literally took my money and ran. When I called the organisation that had referred him, a representative said, “He started out good but went astray. Stay away from him. He’s dangerous.”

I ultimately learned that the man I hired had got involved in paying and receiving bribes to boost his business. His turn to corruption demonstrated the truth of Exodus 23:8, “Take no bribes, for a bribe makes you ignore something that you clearly see. A bribe makes even a righteous person twist the truth.”

Bribery negatively affects people regardless of their occupation. When a person attempts to gain through dishonest means, his or her actions lead down a treacherous path. In fact people who seek to steal from us, believing that bribery is the only way to achieve a desired outcome, are embracing sin. There’s no way to gloss over it. The psalmist writes, “Their hands are dirty with evil schemes, and they constantly take bribes. But I am not like that; I live with integrity. So redeem me and show me mercy” (Psalm 26:10-11).

If people suggest that we deal dishonestly or engage in bribery, it’s important that we reject their requests immediately and cling to verses like Psalm 25:5, “Lead me by Your truth and teach me, for You are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in You.”

Call to God, saying, “Send out Your light and Your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me . . . to the place where You live” (43:3).—Roxanne Robbins

What does Job 15:34 convey to you about the fate of those who engage in bribery?
How have you been tempted to act without integrity recently? Why does God desire our human dealings to be pure—exhibiting honesty and integrity?

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