No matter what your relationship status is this month, may you remember that you are deeply loved by Jesus. He is the true lover of your soul. And He is pursuing you with a crazy, relentless all-powerful love. He is the only one that will truly “complete” you. He takes great delight in you, and He rejoices over you with singing. He is calling your name, and inviting you into a beautiful adventure. There is nobody like Him, and nothing can ever compare to His love. Rejoice in this love today…and may your soul sing His praise…today and always.

Contributed by Jason Van Dyk, God’s Fingerprints

ODJ: We Have a Priest

July 5, 2016 

READ: Hebrews 4:14 

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (4:16).

Author William Willimon told the story of an encounter he had with a woman dying of cancer. Exhausted from her battle with the disease, she clutched the crucifix that had been given to her by her grandmother when she was a little girl. It was a symbol of what Jesus meant to her. When Willimon entered the room, he asked if he should summon a priest. The woman held out the crucifix towards him, which depicted the body of Jesus nailed to the cross. She then said, “Thank you—but I have a Priest.”

The writer of Hebrews wanted all believers to know that they too have Jesus as their Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). During Bible times, the priesthood was a group of men who were responsible for worship and sacrificial duties. The Old Testament identified Aaron and his heirs as having special priestly responsibilities among God’s people (Numbers 18:1-7).

Jesus’ priesthood was superior, however, because no other priest had a ministry in heaven like Him, and no other priest would let ordinary people approach him (Hebrews 4:15-16). Christ fulfilled the Old Testament priesthood by being both the High Priest and the sacrifice through which He achieved forgiveness of sins and grace for daily living for all who believe in Him (5:8-9). As the Great High Priest, He perfectly represented us before God. Being a truly divine High Priest, this act of His was perfect, once for all and of great eternal value (10:10).

Today, we continue to have a Great High Priest in Jesus. He forgives our sins, sympathises with our weaknesses, understands our temptations and pours out His mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. May we draw near to Him today and experience the fullness of His love and presence!

—Marvin Williams

365-day plan: Luke 7:1-7

Read Hebrews 10:19-23 and consider our basis for drawing near to Jesus. 
What should the attitude of our hearts be as we draw near to Christ? What needs will you bring to Him today? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

When Our Church Leaders Fail

Written By Kezia Lewis, Thailand

Lately, news of church leaders’ failures have become common. We hear of pastors committing fraud, embezzling church money, or getting involved in scandals involving pornography or extramarital affairs.

When we hear of such news, more often than not, we crucify these leaders. If we come from these churches, we might disown them, or criticize them in front of the whole world. We are hurt, and the natural reaction is to return the hurt. As a friend once put it, “Hurt people hurt people.” Because these leaders have failed and disillusioned us, we feel justified in punishing them for the pain they have caused us.

Perhaps, however, there are better ways to respond.

Show Them Love

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”— John 13:34-35  

When our church leaders fail, we should show them love. We do not excuse their sins; nor do we shield them from the consequences of their actions. But we don’t need to trample on them. We shouldn’t allow their lapse in judgment to paint them in a worse light.

How can we do this? One way is: Don’t gossip about them. We can begin at home, by exemplifying this brotherly love to our kids. When things like this happen, we tend to tittle-tattle and dig up even more of these church leaders “deficiencies”. Or, we may gather in groups in church or cell groups saying we want to pray for their welfare, but end up speaking badly of them.

When we behave this way in front of our children, we make it seem acceptable to speak against our brothers in the faith. We portray them as villains who had always planned on wreaking havoc in our churches, and make monsters out of them. We forget the good things they had done and remember only the mistakes. We bury them alive in their sins—and forget who they are in God.

Pray For Them

Church leaders are under more spiritual attack because they are on the frontline. The enemy makes every effort to tear them down, because he knows that when he destroys a leader in God’s church, he can discourage and weaken everyone under him. When a leader fails, we can even lose brothers and sisters in Christ, who give up on God and His church entirely.

So we should pray for our leaders—always. And when they fail, we should pray for them even more. We should not allow the enemy to have his way and give in to his tactics; we should not hand him our leaders on a platter when they stumble. Instead, we can lift them up to Jesus.

Pastors and church leaders are as human as we are: they have struggles of their own, and they go through temptations just as we do. Just as our decisions don’t define us, bad decisions don’t characterize our church leaders—our true identity is in Jesus. Yes, we will make mistakes and make bad decisions, but mistakes can be the beginning of greater intimacy with Jesus. Let’s pray for that to be true for our leaders as well.

Be There For Them

When our church leaders fail, we should be there for them as fallen brothers and sisters. This is one way to show them love. We can go to them, pray with them, and help them recover from the mess so they can stand up again. Let’s not shut them out of our lives or our churches, because they need Jesus more than ever.

A friend once told me: “Your husband is not God. He is going to mess up and he is going to hurt you, just like you will mess up and hurt him too. He is human after all.” This advice has given me the strength to be gracious to my husband, just as he has to me. Our relationship with Jesus keeps us and our marriage strong; He is the only one who is perfect and blameless.

I believe we can apply this for our church leaders as well. It’s easy for us to see them as infallible and perfect people—we don’t expect them to err, and we forget that they are not God. We forget that they are flawed and that they will mess up, as they are human after all.  

So when (and not if) they mess up, let’s not be shocked and withhold our grace. Instead of running away from them as though they are too filthy to bear, let’s run to them and raise them up to Jesus. We only need to look at ourselves to remember that we are no cleaner, yet Jesus thought we were worthy of His sacrifice.

Jesus loves our church leaders even when they fail; He will forgive them and be there for them in the darkest of times. We can do the same.

ODJ: Portrait of Jesus

April 29, 2016 

READ: Isaiah 52:13–53:12 

There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him (53:2).

So what did Jesus look like? Did he resemble actor James Caviezel who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ? Probably not. Something like Warner Sallman’s famous portrait Head of Christ? Uh, no—don’t think so.

The Bible tells us very little about Jesus’ physical appearance. Perhaps we find a clue or two in Isaiah 53:2: “There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.”

Jesus was definitely not G.I. Joe—more average Joe. If you bumped into him in a crowded marketplace, it’s likely you wouldn’t have given him a second look.

The last of the four Servant Songs (Isaiah 42:1—9, 49:1—7, 50:4—11), Isaiah 52:13–53:12 doesn’t give us a physical description of Jesus. But it does paint a compelling portrait of Him—revealing who He is and what He’s done for us.

This song tells of Jesus’ humanity, His suffering and sacrifice for us, His death and burial, and His victory and majesty (53:10—12). Because Christ succeeded in His mission to save, He’s “highly exalted” and has been given “the honors of a victorious soldier” (52:13,15, 53:10—12).

But this was accomplished at a high cost. Jesus was “despised and rejected . . . pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins . . . beaten so we could be whole . . . whipped so we could be healed . . . oppressed and treated harshly . . . unjustly condemned [and] buried like a criminal” (vv.3—9). He was “so disfigured he seemed hardly human” (52:14).

But Jesus “had done no wrong” (53:9). So as we gaze at this picture of Jesus, we see the One who bore our sins so we could be right with God, the Son of God who died that we might live eternally (v.11). What an amazing portrait of grace!

—K. T. Sim

365-day-plan: Nehemiah 2:1-20

Read Matthew 26:47—67 and 27:11—54 to see how Jesus fulfilled Isaiah 53. 
What did Jesus endure for you? How does the portrait you’re painting in life reflect the portrait Jesus lived out? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)