ODJ: Believing God

June 23, 2018 

READ: Hebrews 10:38-11:6 

This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith (Romans 1:17).

A common belief about God is that if we can do enough ‘good’ things, we earn His favour. Naturally, the next question becomes: How much is enough? When can we be sure we’ve done enough good things? Well, we can’t! But thankfully, such a concept isn’t found in the Bible. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 2:8-9).

We might misunderstand this grace or have an incomplete grasp of what faith means, thinking that because of God’s grace, it doesn’t matter what we do. Or we may believe that once we put our faith in God, we must then live painstakingly cautious lives so that we never sin. Neither of these concepts has biblical support either.

Martin Luther looked for spiritual peace in a monastery. He didn’t find it until he understood Paul’s description of God’s offer of salvation. “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith” (Romans 1:17). To emphasise the point, Paul quoted the Old Testament prophet: “It is through faith that a righteous person has life” (v.17; Habakkuk 2:4).

It’s easy to believe in God. Most people do. We stumble over believing God—simply taking Him at His Word.

The book of Hebrews reiterates this: “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” The text continues, “Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation” (11:1-2). Through their faith!

Here’s the comforting conclusion. God is pleased by our faith in Him. We’re simply called to “believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (v.6).

May we believe in Him and also believe Him by His grace.

—Tim Gustafson

365-day plan: Luke 4:16-30

Read Hebrews 10:26-38 and see both the comfort and challenge found in those verses. 
Do you believe God? Or do you merely believe in Him? How would you define the difference? 

ODJ: Hear Our Prayer

June 22, 2018 

READ: 2 Chronicles 6:12-21 

Hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray. . . . Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and . . . forgive (v.21).

The opening to a prayer written by author Joni Eareckson Tada pulses with praise: “Almighty God, you are our Mighty Fortress, our refuge and the God in whom we place our trust.” In naming God’s attributes, she follows the example of King Solomon in his heartfelt prayer when he dedicated the newly built temple.

Solomon stood before “the altar of the Lord”, then knelt to offer prayers on behalf of his people (2 Chronicles 6:12). He highlighted some aspects of God’s character: He’s unique, He keeps His promises and His love is unfailing (vv.14-15). Only after reminding himself and the people of God’s glory, majesty and love did Solomon offer his requests.

Solomon also acknowledged the tension between what’s known as God’s transcendence and His immanence. That is, although God can’t be contained in “even the highest heavens”, Solomon asked that He would dwell in the temple (vv.18,41). Solomon knew that although God surpasses all we can understand as limited creatures, He delights to be with us.

Solomon asked God to hear “the humble and earnest” prayers from him and for all Israel and not only to hear, but to forgive (v.21). He asked for God’s intervention in their lives, and for His forgiveness for the wrongs he knew they would commit.

Why not try Solomon’s form of prayer? We can start by naming some ways God demonstrates His awe-inspiring character, such as creating us in His image and promising never to abandon us (Genesis 1:26-27; Deuteronomy 31:6). We can echo the psalmists who declare, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). Then we can lay our requests before God.

Praise God that He delights to dwell with us and hears us when we pray.

—Amy Boucher Pye

365-day plan: John 4:43-54

What do you learn by comparing and contrasting Solomon’s prayer with Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17:1-26? 
How will you consciously worship God for His amazing attributes? How does prayer draw you closer to Him? 

ODJ: Proof of Life

June 21, 2018 

READ: Luke 19:1-10 

Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham (v.9).

Families of kidnap victims often refuse to pay ransom without “proof of life”, evidence such as a phone call or video that shows their loved one is well. True believers in Jesus reveal a different kind of ‘proof of life’—evidence of lives transformed by their new life in Christ.

Zacchaeus exhibited proof of new life after encountering Jesus. He was “the chief tax collector in the region”. That meant he took money from his countrymen, skimmed a lot off the top and sent the rest on to Rome. He “had become very rich”, which meant he was good at his job (Luke 19:2). He was despised, but not by Jesus who “came to seek and save those who are lost” (v.10). Jesus came for people just like Zacchaeus; so when He saw him in the branches above, He invited Himself over for dinner (v.5).

The crowd grumbled that Zacchaeus was “a notorious sinner,” and he didn’t disagree (v.7). “Sinner” was who he was, but it wouldn’t define him now. Zacchaeus demonstrated true repentance when he promised to give half his wealth to the poor and pay back four times whatever he had “cheated people on their taxes” (v.8). Jesus saw the tax collector’s contrite heart and announced, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham” (v.9).

We’re saved when we repent of our sin and believe in Jesus. One proof of repentance is restitution: Do we right our wrongs when possible? A proof of faith is sacrifice: Does our trust in Jesus inspire us to serve others?

Jesus accepts us just as we are, but He loves us too much to allow us to stay that way. His loving transformation may be a long process, but every step forward is your proof of life.

—Mike Wittmer

365-day plan: John 4:1-42

Read 2 Peter 1:3-11. What does Peter say are the signs of our new life in Jesus? 
What evidence of Christ’s transforming ways do you see in your life? What will help you reflect Him and His ways? 

ODJ: Free from Sin

June 20, 2018 

READ: Jeremiah 30:1-24 

I will give you back your health and heal your wounds (v.17).

You guys need to stay in bed,” I said as I pulled the door closed behind me. I was babysitting three boys, five and under, who shared a room. Between the middle one climbing dressers and the tears of the youngest, I had gone into their room multiple times after putting them to bed.

Shortly after I closed the door the final time, I heard the middle one say to the youngest, “John John, cry so Miss Julie will come in here.” I dropped my head into the palm of my hand and let out an exasperated laugh. A few seconds later, the little one started whining.

When their mum returned home, I told her about their antics. To discipline them, the boys had toys taken away that could only be earned back through good behaviour. I felt bad that they had to receive the punishment but relieved they would learn and hopefully behave better next time.

Kids aren’t the only ones who need discipline. In the book of Jeremiah, God describes “a time of trouble” for His people (30:7), a time when He couldn’t “let [them] go unpunished” (v.11) but “had to punish” them because their sins were many and their guilt was great (v.15). Thankfully, God’s plan didn’t stop there. He lovingly promised, “I will give you back your health and heal your wounds” (v.17). Although God had disciplined His people for their sin, He was working through it to heal and restore, to “bring them home” (v.3).

Through Jesus, we too have a way to return home to our Father. As a caring Father, God will lovingly guide and discipline in a way that’s “always good for us” (Hebrews 12:10). And in time “there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (v.11).

—Julie Schwab

365-day plan: John 3:22-36

Read Amos 9:11-15 and consider the beauty of God’s restoration. 
How do you feel knowing that in Jesus we can find full forgiveness and restoration? Why is it beneficial for God to discipline us?