ODJ: Springs of Life

December 3, 2018 

READ: Revelation 21:1-7 

To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life (v.6).

I once visited an urban farm organised by the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC relocates refugees from ravaged countries and helps them establish a new life. Since many refugees grew up in an agrarian lifestyle, farming can be a natural way for them to rebuild their lives. Portions of the farmland simply grow wild each year, allowing the soil to rest. Then, in the year to follow, they till the grass back into the dirt, using it to enrich the soil that will help nourish the crops they’ll eventually harvest.

This image helps us better understand Revelation 21, where John gives us God’s vision of the future and describes how “the old heaven and the old earth [will disappear]” (v.1). We might be tempted to think this means that the world we know will be obliterated, but I believe John is describing how our world will be transformed and made new. Like the grass tilled into the earth for a richer harvest, the old world is to be remade into “a new heaven and a new earth” (v.1).

This is why John says that in God’s new world, “the sea [will also be] gone” (v.1). In Scripture, the sea often represents chaos and disorder, the violent and terrifying forces that threaten to overwhelm and destroy. God, John promises, will remove the terror and the madness (v.4). Even more, John describes how Jesus stands, alive and powerful, inviting all people to come to Him and drink the water that nourishes and revives. “To all who are thirsty,” Jesus says, “I will give freely from the springs of the water of life” (v.6).

In Jesus, the whole world will be made new. In Jesus, raging seas will be transformed into springs of life. In Jesus, our deepest sorrows and fears will be healed.

—Winn Collier

365-day plan: Philippians 2:1-18

Read John 4:14 and see what it adds to the vision in Revelation. 
What are the raging seas in your life? What would it look like for Jesus to turn those turbulent waters into a place of nourishment and peace? 

ODJ: Pursuing Holiness

December 2, 2018 

READ: Matthew 4:1-11 

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry (vv.1-2).

I can resist anything except temptation.” We might smile at this quip by Oscar Wilde, but it also may invite us to challenge ourselves: Has our pursuit of holiness—reflecting God and conforming to His will—been weakened through the corrosive influence of modern culture’s love of pleasure? How can we, as we seek to honour God, resist temptation?

Some believers continue the process of conforming to God’s will by observing the season of Lent. Traditionally, the forty days leading up to Easter Sunday and modelled after the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, Lent has been a time for believers to examine their hearts, minds and souls prayerfully. Some people abstain from certain foods or drinks, while others add positive behaviours, such as an act of daily kindness.

This season can be a time to seek the purifying work of the Holy Spirit as we prepare to celebrate the gift of our risen Saviour. During Lent, we can remember Jesus’ testing in the wilderness, which came at the start of His ministry following His baptism (Matthew 3:13-4:1). He didn’t thunder into Jerusalem to seize authority, but—led by the Spirit—withdrew to be tempted by the devil (4:1). With the help of the Holy Spirit, He resisted the devil’s three temptations (to turn stones to bread, to jump off the temple and to worship Satan), because He sought to follow the will of His Father (vv.3-10).

As we seek the help of the Holy Spirit, we too can follow Jesus’ example by standing firm against the devil, our fallen nature and the world’s temptations. As we follow God’s will through His Spirit, we can begin to reflect His ways, not only in Lent but throughout our lives. May we pursue holiness in God’s strength.

—Amy Boucher Pye

365-day plan: Ephesians 6:10-20

Read a portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:1-18 and consider what it reveals about our motives when praying, fasting and giving. 
Consider a time when you observed practices that helped you to turn from sin to God. What were they? How did they help you in your pursuit of being set apart for Him? 

ODJ: Lord Over the Invisible

December 1, 2018 

READ: Colossians 1:15-20 

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation (v.15).

The term “visible light” might seem redundant. After all, what kind of light is there besides “visible” light? But the light we see is only a small part of the greater electromagnetic spectrum. There are actually many frequencies of light our eyes cannot naturally perceive: infrared, ultraviolet and many more. This is an important reminder that just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there!

In a similar way, this passage from Colossians 1 makes repeated mention of the unseen—things we can’t see and rulers and authorities that are unseen (v.16). This is a phrase Paul also uses in Ephesians 6:12: “We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” There’s so much that exists that we cannot perceive with our senses.

What Paul mentions not only points out the limits of our perception, but it can also expand our understanding of God’s sovereignty—His supreme power over all things. Jesus created all things, not just what is seen but what is unseen as well (Colossians 1:16). So, as magnificent as it is to imagine God’s control over visible creation like mountains and valleys and oceans, how much more so to realise His sovereignty is even greater still! (v.18).

Like many aspects of God’s character, our conception of His sovereignty is oftentimes far too small. The fullness of creation is His and under His control, including both the little we see as well as that which we can’t see. And this amazing and powerful God loves us as His very own children (v.12).

—Peter Chin

365-day plan: Ephesians 4:1-16

Read Revelation 1:4-8 for John’s powerful description of Jesus as Lord over all. 
How often do you consider the unseen realities around you? What does it mean to you that God is sovereign over those things as well as what you can see? 

ODJ: What Trust Delivers

November 30, 2018 

READ: Isaiah 26:1-13 

O Lord our God, others have ruled us, but you alone are the one we worship (v.13).

As turmoil permeated my thoughts, every creak in my empty house intensified my anxiety. Extreme fear had settled into my life in my early twenties, and at times it was debilitating. My imagination became my enemy. Desperately desiring to be at peace, I would pace in my living room, repeating to myself, “God will keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is stayed on Him” (see Isaiah 26:3). But the stranglehold of fear broke only when my relationship with God grew to the place where my heart could grasp what it meant to truly trust Him.

There are days when I want to see God’s protection visibly, like the “walls of God’s salvation” spoken of by the prophet Isaiah (26:1). But unlike the children of Israel, today we don’t witness God’s protection through gazing upon brick and mortar walls. Yet, as Isaiah reveals, it’s not man-made walls that create security (v.12).

Promising to give “peace of mind and heart”, Jesus said, “The peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27). So how do we experience this gift in a world where crisis seems to intensify each day?

God calls us to more than a superficial application of Scripture to allay our fears. He invites us to place our trust in His worthiness (Isaiah 26:4-6). And because God is just, there can also be a correlation between our experience of peace and whether our hearts are aligned with His ways (vv.3,7). We demonstrate that we believe He’s trustworthy when we obey Him, when “our heart’s desire is to glorify [His] name” (v.8). In turn, as He becomes the centre of our affections and desires, we find ourselves in the presence of the King who delivers (vv.12-13).

—Regina Franklin

365-day plan: Ephesians 2:1-22

Read Romans 15:13 and meditate on why God is worthy of our trust. 
When have fearful thoughts caused you to lose hope? How does trusting God allow you to experience contentment?