ODJ: What Never Changes

November 23, 2017 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas (vv.8-9). 

READ: Hebrews 13:8-16 

Quartz timing is a term we often hear mentioned in reference to watches and clocks. But most of us don’t have the faintest idea of what it means. In a quartz watch, the battery sends an electric signal through a tiny piece of quartz which vibrates at a very precise frequency, exactly 32,768 times per second. The watch uses that fixed vibration rate to keep time. Because the vibration rate is always the same and never changes, quartz timepieces are highly dependable—much more accurate time-keepers than many other types of clocks.

Far more reliable than the constant vibration rate of a piece of quartz, the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Although this truth on its own is an important aspect of the character of Christ, Jesus’ perfect, timeless nature would have been especially important to the early church, which was deeply divided by different approaches to eating certain foods. The writer of Hebrews told believers in Jesus that they shouldn’t obsess over new rules about food that wouldn’t help anyone (v.9). It was far better for them to focus on the unchanging and gracious character of Christ instead.

Today, social media is often filled with all the latest fads: the best way to train your mind, the most effective way to organise your closet and the diet that cavemen ate! While interesting to consider, we usually need not place much attention on those things, because they haven’t stood the test of time. But we can always build our lives around the gracious character of Jesus—the One who never changes and against whom the storms of life can’t prevail (Matthew 7:24).

—Peter Chin

365-day-plan: Romans 12:1-21

Read James 1:16-18 to see what it says about God’s unchanging nature and His provision for us. 
What new and strange thing do you find yourself distracted by? What might it mean for you to focus more on the unchanging character of Christ? 

ODJ: No Masks

November 22, 2017 

You desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there (v.6). 

READ: Psalm 51:1-19 

Many years ago, my pastor was talking with a church youth group about “masks”. He asked the students to state what God would see under their masks, should they choose to remove them. What was under their façades? Most gave superficial answers, but one had a much more profound response. She had experienced a painful life that included a suicide attempt and had found trouble nearly everywhere she went. Quietly she said, “I think God would see brokenness, but he would also see beauty.”

In Psalm 51:6, David reminds us that God treasures honesty. He prayerfully sings, “But you desire honesty from the womb.” We can never be truly honest with others until we’re honest with God and ourselves first. Yet honesty can be brutal because it means admitting where we’ve failed and the places of brokenness in our lives.

But honesty also requires naming what is good, true and beautiful about God, the world and even ourselves. As Paul wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).

In Psalm 51:17, David went on to declare, “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” The young lady mentioned by my pastor eventually began to heal. Her healing began as she peeked out from under her crumbling mask and spoke the honest truth. Likewise, we can all be confident in removing our masks and telling the truth to God (and trusted others) because He will not reject our broken and repentant spirits (v.17).

—Marlena Graves

365-day-plan: Romans 8:19-39

Meditate on John 8:32 and consider why it’s so important for us to embrace God’s truth and the truth about ourselves. 
How are honesty and grace related? What would happen if you were more honest about your life and situation before God? 

ODJ: Seeing What’s Invisible

November 21, 2017 

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God (v.15). 

READ: Colossians 1:11-20 

From the time I first encountered Magic Eye stereograms (posters that show one obvious picture, but supposedly reveal more if you stare at them long enough), they’ve only frustrated me. I sat in front of one for what seemed like hours while everyone coached me, telling me to look through the image, then past the image and then telling me to cross my eyes and look harder. No matter what I tried, I simply couldn’t see what, I’m told, was right there in front of me.

It’s possible to be similarly baffled in our attempts to understand God. Our finite human sight, our way of seeing and hearing and understanding, is simply ill-equipped for grasping and comprehending Him. He’s the transcendent Creator who is above us, beyond us and outside our grasp. In fact, God once proclaimed to His people Israel that they couldn’t see His face. “No one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). In the same way, the book of Hebrews refers to God as the “one who is invisible” (11:27).

And yet the apostle Paul tells us, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus is how we see this One who we can’t see. Isn’t that a mind-bender? Jesus shows us, in human flesh, the reality of God. So if we want to know what God is like, we look to Jesus. We listen to His words. We ponder Jesus’ actions. We take note of when Jesus grew angry or sad. We listen to His questions.

In Christ, we understand God as the One who “created everything”, the One who “existed before anything else” and the one who “holds all creation together” (vv.16-17). When we encounter Jesus, we encounter God. Though much about God and faith are inscrutable, we are not left to grasp in the dark. We see Jesus.

—Winn Collier

365-day-plan: Romans 8:1-18

Read John 1:18. How does John reflect Paul’s words in Colossians 1? How does he describe the way God has made Himself known? 
When has God seemed most invisible to you, most confusing or most bewildering? How do the life, teachings and person of Jesus illuminate this confusion? 

ODJ: Pass Over Nian

November 20, 2017 

The blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you (v.13). 

READ: Exodus 12:1-13 

The myth of the Chinese New Year festival tells of a demon, Nian, who lived in the mountains. On the first day of the year, Nian would come into the village, steal the children and eat livestock and grain. One day, an old man visited the village and gave the horrified people a solution. They were to hang red signs on their doors and make loud music—things the demon didn’t like. The Chinese word for New Year Guo Nian (??) literally means “pass over Nian” or “overcome Nian”.

This myth reminds me of the Passover celebration that commemorates the Israelites’ freedom from slavery in Egypt. After the Israelites had been enslaved for four centuries, God chose a leader named Moses to free them. God brought ten devastating plagues as judgement over the Egyptians. The last plague was the killing of their firstborn sons (Exodus 12:12). To protect the Israelites from experiencing this fate, God provided a solution: the people were to sacrifice an animal, “a one year old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects” (v.5). Then they had to take its blood and smear it on the sides and doorframes of their homes. God promised that the blood would be a sign of their allegiance. He would not judge them, but “pass over” them and they would be saved (v.13).

Just as God delivered the Israelites, He later provided the ultimate sacrifice to save all humanity from slavery to sin. It’s even possible that Jesus died at the same time the lambs were being sacrificed in the temple in preparation for Passover (John 19:14). As Paul said, “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Praise God for sending a Deliverer so we could be set free from sin and death!

—Estera Pirosca Escobar

365-day-plan: Romans 5:1-11

Read John 1:29 and consider what John the baptiser said when He saw Jesus coming towards him. 
How does it encourage you that Jesus’ sacrifice covers all your sin? How can you learn to trust more deeply in His grace?