ODB: Just The Right Time

December 21, 2014 

READ: Hebrews 9:11-22 

Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come. —Hebrews 9:11 

The conductor stood on the podium, his eyes scanning the choir and orchestra. The singers arranged the music in their folders, found a comfortable position for standing, and held the folder where they could see the conductor just over the top. Orchestra members positioned their music on the stand, found a comfortable position in their seats, and then sat still. The conductor waited and watched until everyone was ready. Then, with a downbeat of his baton, the sounds of Handel’s “Overture to Messiah” filled the cathedral.

With the sound swirling around me, I felt I was immersed in Christmas—when God, at just the right moment, signaled the downbeat and set in motion an overture that started with the birth of the Messiah, the “High Priest of the good things to come” (Heb. 9:11).

Every Christmas, as we celebrate Christ’s first coming with glorious music, I’m reminded that God’s people, like choir and orchestra members, are getting ready for the next downbeat of the conductor when Christ will come again. On that day, we will participate with Him in the final movement of God’s symphony of redemption—making all things new (Rev. 21:5). In anticipation, we need to keep our eyes on the conductor and make sure we are ready.

— Julie Ackerman Link

Sound the soul-inspiring anthem,
Angel hosts, your harps attune;
Earth’s long night is almost over,
Christ is coming—coming soon! —Macomber

The advent of Christ celebrates His birth and anticipates His return. 

ODJ: with the Lord

July 26, 2013 

READ: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 

Since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with Him the believers who have died (v.14). 

Everyone wants to know what heaven will be like,and over the past several years a spate of books have promised to tell them. Don Piper was first with his 90 Minutes in Heaven. Following that bestseller, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven and Heaven Is for Real were published and enthusiastically received by readers. One book went in the opposite direction—literally—23 Minutes in Hell.

These books that claim to provide firsthand accountsof the afterlife have encouraged many, but I’ll limit my words to what we find in Scripture. Read Luke 23:43,2 Corinthians 5:6-8, Philippians 1:21-23 and1 Thessalonians 4:14, and you’ll discover that one thing Scripture says about heaven is that it’s where we’re with the Lord. This is enough, because the presence of the Lord is what makes heaven ‘heaven’. Why wasn’t Lazarus upset when Jesus raised him from the dead? Why didn’t he complain? I think he may have been glad to come back to life because Jesus was there. Lazarus’ house in Bethany had become a corner of heaven.

We get another glimpse of heaven in Revelation 6:9-11. John writes of the martyred saints shouting to the Lord, “How long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood?” They’re not suffering, for they’ve been delivered from the grasp of sin. But they aren’t entirely satisfied either. As great as it is to be a disembodied soul in heaven, there’s something even better: to be a whole person living on Earth.

And so these saints pray for the return of Jesus and the resurrection of their bodies. Let’s join them in the closing prayer of Scripture, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).—Mike Wittmer
› Matthew 18:10-22

Read Revelation 21-22 to learn what will happen when Jesus returns to Earth.  
What burning question do you have about heaven? Why do you think Scripture doesn’t answer it? What should you do withthis question?  

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: subversive hymn

July 12, 2013 

READ: Colossians 1:15-23  

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

We like to sing hymns in our church—the older the better. We often put new music to them, but sometimes we sing the songs as written. The power of the words, the beautiful melodies, the fact that Christians sang these truths long before us, make hymns an important part of our worship.

Colossians 1:15-23 is a poem and was probably an early hymn that Paul used in his letter. These lyrics weren’t simply theological truths (though they were that), but they were also affirmations of loyalty to the kingdom of King Jesus over the Roman Empire.

When Paul referred to Jesus as the “image” of God, he used the Greek word eikon (v.15). The ‘eikon’ of Caesar may have been on every coin, and it was plastered on the empire’s banners and architecture. But Paul asserted that Jesus (not Caesar) was the true king, the one whose image offered us God and requires our worship.

Furthermore, historical records made many references to Caesar that this hymn would have countered. Caesar was said to be “equal to the beginning of all things”, the “beginning of life and vitality”, the “saviour”, and the one who “put an end to war and . . . set all things in order”. Caesar was even declared “god manifest”.

With that background, consider a few lines from the hymn the church sang: Jesus “existed before anything . . . and is supreme over creation” (v.15). Through Jesus, “God created everything” (v.16). Jesus holds “all creation together” (v.17). And to be perfectly clear: Jesus is over all “thrones, kingdoms, rulers and authorities” (v.16).

Singing a hymn of loyalty to Jesus is an act of subversion; it’s against every other power that would make claim to our allegiance.—Winn Collier

Read the entire chapter of Colossians 1. Where do you see other words of loyalty to Jesus and acts of disloyalty to the powers of this world?  
What kingdoms and powers are asking for your allegiance? What hymn lyrics speak to your heart? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: village of eternity

June 16, 2013 

READ: Revelation 22:1-21 

The throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and His servants will worship Him (v.3). 

Journalist Tracey Lawson visited Campodimele, Italy, and dubbed it the “Village of Eternity.” The 1,000 year old town rests like a crown atop a mountain, and the average resident lives 95 years. The locals eat well—mostly simple, fresh food. According to Lawson, the village is a “little cluster of medieval houses [with] olive trees on the slopes in the background.” The main piazza boasts a panoramic view of the Liri Valley, and twilight patrons of the Moonlight Café can sit outside and watch the moon ascend like a slow-moving lantern.

So what’s to stop us all from buying one-way tickets to Campodimele? The promise of somewhere even better. This divine venue of the future in Israel and is called “the New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:1-2). In this place . . .

We will interact directly with God (22:3). “The throne of God . . . will be there, and His servants will worship Him” (v.3). The word worship in this verse could be rendered serve. Either way, our acts of honour will be performed face-to-face with our Creator (v.4).

We will experience God’s glorious light (v.5). One day we’ll live in His radiance, which will negate the need for lamps, light bulbs and even the sun!

We will reign forever and ever (v.5). Our lives will go on indefinitely without the threat of evil (v.15). We’ll finally experience the wonder of the words: “Everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Christian writer C. S. Lewis said, “If I [have] a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the [best] explanation is that I was made for another world.” Do you desire limitless time and the continual joy that comes from God’s presence? (Psalm 21:6). If so, you were made for God’s ‘village of eternity’.

—Jennifer Benson Schuldt

› John 1:19-34

Read Revelation 21:10-12 to learn more about the New Jerusalem. Read Ezekiel 1:26-28 to see the prophet’s description of God’s glory. 
What does God’s presence mean to you as you consider the concept of eternity? How might the prospect of an eternity spent apart from God influence your concern for unbelievers? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)