ODJ: Transformed by God

February 23, 2018 

Let God transform you into a new person (v.2). 

READ: Romans 12:1-2 

My grandmother was famous for her cornbread. She poured golden batter into cast iron skillets and slipped them into the oven, making all the grandkids wait and salivate until half an hour later, when she’d retrieve the piping hot cornbread. Typically, Grandma used standard circular skillets, but sometimes she’d pour the batter into a skillet shaped like the state of Texas or one with rows shaped like corn on the cob. But no matter what shape the cornbread was in, it tasted amazing!

The apostle Paul warned against a kind of shaping (or a type of moulding) that can do great harm—the shaping that comes from the “behaviour and customs of this world” (Romans 12:2). This moulding is a force that works on us from the outside, attempting to lure us into ways of living at odds with God and His kingdom.

In opposition to this, Paul encourages us to “let God transform [us] into a new person by changing the way [we] think” (v.2). The word transform reminds us that, in contrast to the external shaping of the world, through His Spirit, God transforms and recreates us from the inside out. In other words, God doesn’t merely pour the same batter into a new mould. Instead, He also changes the batter. God makes us a truly new person, able to resist the world’s mould and become like Him.

The system of the world isn’t merely an alternative lifestyle choice. It’s a way of living at odds with the God who would make us new—the God who would make us like Jesus. But as we allow God to recreate us into new people, we will begin to learn “God’s will” (v.2). We will begin to comprehend God’s mind and heart, and start to see ourselves and our world as He does. And in this way, we will find true freedom.

—Winn Collier

365-day plan: Deuteronomy 29:1-29

Read Ezekiel 36:26and reflect on how God has made it possible for our hearts to be transformed. 
How is the world trying to push or shape you into its mould? How does God’s work of transformation offer you a different way of living? 

ODJ: In His Presence

February 22, 2018 

They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” (v.3). 

READ: Isaiah 6:1-8 

There I was, shaking hands with the president of Iceland! As my boss introduced me to him at a private dinner I had the privilege to attend, my mind went blank as I tried to remember the few words I’d memorised in Icelandic. It made me incredibly nervous to be in the presence of the leader of a country.

Meeting a president was an amazing experience, but it’s nothing compared to being in the presence of God. Isaiah, a prophet called by God to bring His message of both judgement and hope, was definitely able to testify to this.

Isaiah’s calling into ministry was a powerful encounter with the living God. During this vision, the prophet caught a glimpse of the majestic throne room of God where “[God] was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple.” Angelic beings were declaring, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Isaiah 6:1,3). Holy means being set apart from the ordinary, the common and the mundane. Encountering holiness is awe-inspiring and prompts adoration. God’s holiness is unique to His character, for there’s no other like Him: “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

Isaiah’s response to this revelation of the Almighty God was fear at the realisation of his own sinfulness. Yet God, in His mercy and grace, offered Isaiah forgiveness (Isaiah 6:7). Not only did the prophet get a new identity and receive a right standing before our holy God, he was given a new purpose as His messenger. When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, our sins are also forgiven and we become “a holy nation, God’s very own possession” called to “show others [His] goodness” (1 Peter 2:9).

—Estera Pirosca Escobar

365-day plan: Numbers 22:5-38

Read Exodus 3:1-6 for another account of a person encountering the presence of God. 
Since God’s creation is filled with His glory and reveals His presence (Isaiah 6:3), spend some time in nature today and allow yourself to be embraced by the Holy One. What do you experience in God’s presence? 

ODJ: The Waiting Game

February 21, 2018 

Be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the [autumn] and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen (v.7). 

READ: James 5:1-11 

A man from the Netherlands fell for a Chinese woman he met online. Impatient to meet her, he booked a flight and flew 5,000 miles for a visit. He’d sent her his itinerary, but when he arrived at the airport, she wasn’t there. The man, however, was so determined that he waited for her at the airport in China for ten days! Definitely a patient guy, though his faith in his love interest may have been misplaced.

When James encouraged his readers to be patient, he offered them a certain foundation for their patience and hope—Jesus’ return, the next big event in God’s story (5:7-8). He knew the hope of Christ’s return would encourage them as they endured hardship and suffering. As they waited, James urged them to practise self-restraint and not retaliate after being wronged. He wrote, “Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged” (v.9).

When they endured times of struggle, James said they should follow the example of farmers. A farmer in James’ day had to wait patiently for the early and late rains that were crucial for their agriculture (v.7). Like the farmer waiting for the harvest, these believers were to be patient under oppression until Jesus came back (v.8). When He returned, He would right every wrong.

Every generation of believers lives in the eager anticipation of Jesus’ return. As we wait for Him, we’re to be watchful and ready (Matthew 24:41-42), be faithful stewards eagerly expecting His return (25:14-30; 1 Corinthians 1:7), exercise wisdom (Proverbs 19:11) and live as God’s holy people by His power (Colossians 3:12). May Jesus provide what you need to patiently wait for Him today!

—Marvin Williams

365-day plan: Numbers 21:4-9

Read 2 Thess. 1:10 to see one of the reactions believers will have when He returns. 
What’s the hardest thing about waiting for Jesus’ return? How is His coming back an incentive for you to live out your faith? 

ODJ: Reverence Rules

February 20, 2018 

Do not go up on the mountain or even touch its boundaries (v.12). 

READ: Exodus 19:1-25 

If you have the opportunity to meet the Queen of England, don’t start the encounter with a bear hug or a hearty slap on the back. Keeping one’s distance is a sign of respect for this special lady. Although a courteous handshake might be allowed, people are generally advised not to touch the queen.

When the Israelites met God at Mount Sinai, their respect for God also required them to keep some distance. God told Moses to mark a line around the mountain. He said, “Warn the people, ‘Be careful! Do not go up on the mountain or even touch its boundaries’ ” (Exodus 19:12). When God descended onto the mountaintop, the people would be allowed to hear Him, but not actually approach Him. The penalty for breeching Moses’ borderline was death.

While this may have seemed harsh, the command to stand back was for the good of the Israelites. God was teaching His people about Himself. They needed to learn that God’s holiness—His transcendence and perfect ways—set Him apart from all of creation, especially from other gods (Exodus 15:11).

Most important, Israel needed to learn that God’s holiness was incompatible with sin. Understanding this would establish in their hearts an attitude of awe for Him. If the nation revered God, they would obey Him and become His own special treasure, a kingdom of priests—His own holy nation (19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9).

Reverence for God is significant for us as well, although we demonstrate it differently. Because of the blood of Christ, we don’t have to stand back from God. Although He’s as holy as ever, believers may come reverently and boldly before Him, where “we will receive His mercy, and . . . find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16).

—Jennifer Schuldt

365-day plan: Numbers 14:5-45

Read Proverbs 1:7 and consider the connection between the “fear of the Lord” (reverence) and wisdom. 
How have your life experiences caused you to revere God? Thinking about God’s holiness may create a desire to confess sin or to worship Him. Which is it for you right now?