ODJ: if My people

April 17, 2013 

READ: 2 Chronicles 7:1-22 

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land (v.14).

I was speaking with three friends about the lamentable condition of our country, America. They mentioned the continued practice of abortion, the rise of homosexual marriage, and the debt crisis. One friend cited 
2 Chronicles 7:14 and said that our nation’s problems will only be solved when our country turns to God. I said that would be difficult to pull off, as America believes in the separation of church and state. We Americans cannot compel Muslims, Buddhists or atheists to worship Yahweh. Nor would we want to. Life goes badly—both for those inside and outside the church—whenever Christianity becomes the religion of the state.

But this doesn’t mean that 2 Chronicles 7:14 doesn’t apply to us. Peter declares that God’s people are the church, which is a kingdom of “royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). Our problem is not that my country is failing to live Christianly, but that the church is failing to live as God’s holy nation. Christians have the same marriage challenges and other problems as people who don’t claim to know Jesus. This is a scandalous black eye on the bride of Christ.

We can’t compel others to live righteously, but what if we followed Peter’s command to “show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light”? (v.9). We may be outnumbered, but we could still make a difference.

The early church did so much for so many that in AD 362, Julian the Apostate complained he couldn’t return the Roman Empire to paganism. How could he persuade the average Roman that Christians were bad, when “the impious Galileans support not only their own poor but ours as well”?

May revival come to my nation, and may it start with me. —Mike Wittmer

Read 1 Peter 2:9-25 to learn how you can make a difference for Jesus in your world. 
How does it affect unbelievers when ‘Christians’ are unholy and unloving and seem to sin as much as they do? How can you more selflessly model Jesus?

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ODJ: affected

March 19, 2013 

READ: 2 Corinthians 2:1-11 

I wrote that letter in great anguish, with a troubled heart and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you (v.4).

Rachel, the daughter of fellow ODJ author Jeff Olson, is a young woman I love as if she were my own. Recently she completed an 8 month missions trip. During that time I became concerned when she contracted malaria while serving in a rural part of Kenya. Fortunately her health was restored after taking some strong medication. Rachel’s ministry for Jesus definitely caused her to be affected physically. Her emotions were even more affected, however, as she poured herself into people who were dealing with the effects of sin.

We often talk about effective ministry. But it’s true that serving others for Jesus is also affective. Paul was affected to the point of tears in his dealings with the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:4). In a previous ‘painful visit’, he had rebuked the Corinthian church—encouraging them to repent of their sin (v.1). An unnamed man apparently verbally attacked Paul at that time (v.5). Paul refers to a “severe letter” that was sent after his visit, calling the people to repent of their sin (7:8-10).

Paul knew how it felt to be affected as he served others. You and I can expect the same thing. We give away a piece of ourselves when we lovingly choose to help people deal with sin, addictions, pain and discouragement.

But blessings often wait in the wings. In Paul’s case the unnamed ‘villain’ in Corinth apparently repented of his evil ways. And though he had been adversely affected, the apostle did not hold a grudge. Instead he implored the people at Corinth to “forgive and comfort” the man (2:7). Paul went on to write, “When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too” (v.10).

Yes, from malaria to malcontents, ministering to others for Jesus will affect us. But the lasting effects can be a beautiful thing. —Tom Felten

Read John 11:32-36 and note how Jesus was affected as He ministered in Bethany.
How have you been affected by your ministry to others for Jesus? Why is it both good and difficult to be affected this way?

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ODJ: seller beware

March 11, 2013 

READ: 1 Kings 21:1-28 

Elijah answered, “I have come because you have sold yourself to what is evil in the Lord’s sight” (v.20).

Every buyer is also a seller. If I buy apples from you,
 then you’re selling your apples and ‘buying’ my 
 money, while I am ‘selling’ my money to buy your apples. For every time you make a purchase, you must give up something to make the transaction. If you have nothing to sell, there’s nothing you can buy.

Ahab mistakenly thought he was only a buyer. He wanted to turn Naboth’s vineyard into a garden, and he offered to pay cash or trade a better vineyard if Naboth would sell (1 Kings 21:2). Naboth answered that his family inheritance could not be sold. Ahab’s wife Jezebel then told her husband that she would get the land for him. She cruelly had Naboth stoned on false charges. She then said to Ahab, “You know the vineyard Naboth wouldn’t sell you? Well, you can have it now! He’s dead!” (v.15).

A happy Ahab immediately claimed the vineyard. What a bargain! He had been willing to overpay for the land, but now he was getting it for free. Almost.

Ahab was so focused on the buyer’s side of the ledger that he didn’t notice he had vastly overpaid. Elijah told Ahab that Naboth’s vineyard had cost his soul. He had sold himself to evil, for he had robbed and murdered an innocent man so he could grow vegetables. Hope you enjoy those tomatoes, Ahab, because “dogs will lick your blood at the very place where they licked the blood of Naboth!” (v.19).

Every time we take, we give something back. Visit trashy websites, and you leave a part of your soul behind. Cheat others, and the money you save is outspent by the cost to your character. You belong to God, who bought you with the blood of His Son. Don’t sell yourself short. —Mike Wittmer

Judges 14:1-20 ‹

Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 to learn your true value and how you should spend it.
Think of an item you recently purchased. 
What did it cost you financially? What did 
it cost you spiritually? 
Was it worth it? Why or 
why not? 

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ODJ: money or mobility?

March 5, 2013 

READ: Acts 3:1-8 

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

I hardly ever encounter beggars on the streets. But in some countries you can find them begging at the markets and shopping centres. Once, when visiting a neighbouring country, my hosts told me that for my own sake I had to ignore the beggars. If I showed the slightest interest in one, he would pursue and pester me until I gave him some money. And the moment I gave to one I would be very quickly swarmed by many others.

In Acts 3 we read of a man crippled from birth. He had to be carried and placed outside the temple gates where he would beg from the worshippers going into the temple. Calling out to anyone who cared enough to stop and help him, he was just one of thousands of beggars who depended on people’s kindness to survive. Having done this for many years (Acts 4:22), he was accustomed to being shunned, ignored and rejected.

But then Peter and John came to the temple to pray. The beggar called out to them, hardly expecting that they would notice him. Instead they demanded his undivided attention, making sure that he knew he had been intentionally singled out (3:4). The man merely wanted money (v.5), but they gave him much more. They gave him a miracle. They gave him mobility and a new life (vv.6-9).

We cry out to God to meet our needs. Often what we think we need isn’t what we truly need. It’s something deeper. Thankfully God knows what our real needs are. In His grace God doesn’t just give us what we ask for. He gives us something immeasurably better (Ephesians 3:20; 1 Timothy 1:14).

If I were that beggar, would I merely be asking for money to survive? Or would I seek what would allow me to really live? —K.T. Sim

Joshua 23:1-16 ‹

Read Matthew 6:25-32 to see why we can trust God to provide for our basic needs, and read Matthew 6:33, 7:11 and Ephesians 3:16-20 to see how much more God wants to give us. 
How have you become insensitive and immunised to the cries of people asking for help? Who can you share your ‘silver and gold’ with this week?

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