ODJ: Timeless Beauty

July 15, 2018 

READ: Ephesians 4:1-16 

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (v.15).

Each year, my son and I travel to the other side of the country to spend time with his honorary grandparents, Gwen and Jim Johnson. It’s not possible for me to express the significance of these visits and all that my son and I learn from this remarkable couple, each of whom are in their mid-nineties.

Though no longer able to skydive, Jajja (grandmother) Gwen did parachute from the sky on her ninetieth birthday! The Johnsons model a deep faith in Jesus, a contagious zest for life, an unwavering commitment to service and an undeniable love for and devotion to each other.

Throughout their more than 70 years of marriage, Gwen and Jim have exemplified Ephesians 4:2-3 as they’ve treated each other humbly and gently—and that still continues in their golden years. Because they know and trust Jesus, they continue to “be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of . . . love” (v.2). They know that each minute they have on earth is more time to serve Him and His children and to love each other.

Their example of profound love has been evident to my son and me again and again. But this past summer, at the swimming pool, as we watched Jim tenderly rub suntan lotion on Gwen’s shoulder, I thanked God for allowing my son to witness unconditional love between a husband and a wife.

Grandpa Jim and Jajja Gwen, to all who know them, are an example of the beauty that results when people choose to “make every effort to keep [themselves] united in the Spirit, binding [themselves] together in peace” (v.3).

When we allow the Holy Spirit and Scripture to guide us, nothing can veil the beauty God intended for us to experience in our relationships.

—Roxanne Robbins

365-day plan: Matthew 10:16-42

Read Job 12:12 and consider how growing in Jesus over the years can add to our spiritual beauty. 
What can you learn from spending time with someone whose faith is more mature and time-tested than your own? How can you spread God’s beauty to others today? 

ODJ: Hope Just Yet

July 14, 2018 

READ: Genesis 12:1-9 

All the families on earth will be blessed through you (v.3).

I’m crazy about em-dashes,” says the author of my favourite editorial newsletter. (It’s Stephanie Smith’s Slant//Letter, in case you’re wondering.) Also in case you’re wondering, this is an em-dash: —.

Smith advocates writing your “six-word memoir”, in which you describe your life in just six words. She employs the em-dash to great effect in her own memoir, which ends—naturally—with an em-dash. Says Smith, “It’s a signal that the story is always unfolding, we are endlessly becoming, and there’s hope just yet.”

Hope just yet. That provides great comfort—especially for parents of grown children. We observe others who seem to enjoy ‘perfect’ children who attend perfectly prestigious universities and launch perfectly ambitious careers. Our kids, meanwhile, may wander into life adrift from their spiritual moorings. We feel like parental failures.

In the beginning, the perfect Parent launched two perfect children into a perfect world. This Parent gave His children everything they needed. He spent quality time with them. It was paradise (Genesis 2:4-25).

How did Adam and Eve turn out? Genesis 3 reveals their epic failure. So . . . did God fail as a parent?

Long after that disaster in Eden, but still recorded in the book of Genesis, our heavenly Father came to a desert tent-dweller with hope for the ages. “All the families on earth will be blessed through you,” God said to the childless man (12:3). Abram would become the father of the miracle child, Isaac. From their line would come Jesus—the Hope of all the world.

Your child’s story—or that of someone else you know (including you!)—may not be going the way you planned. Take hope. Keep praying. We’re all in God’s story—and His story is still unfolding.

—Tim Gustafson

365-day plan: Mark 6:1-13

God’s children make all kinds of mistakes, yet His story unfolds according to plan. See Genesis 50:14-21 for an example. 
How often do you pray for the spiritual wellbeing of others? How does Scripture give you hope and encouragement even for those who are far from God? 

ODJ: Faith-Fuelled Care

July 13, 2018 

READ: James 2:14-26 

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless (v.17).

When I was a young child, my dad’s mother fell ill and came to live with our family. “Gran” had diabetes and was too weak to walk. Because we lived in a flat high up in a building with no lift, my father carried her up and down the stairs. Mum prepared special meals for her, bathed her, cut her nails and gave her regular insulin injections.

Gran had never been the easiest woman, but now she became unpredictable and caring for her was a real challenge. I was too young to remember her, but mum often spoke of the way God helped her to love her mother-in-law. In time, with much prayer, a good diet and special care, Gran grew stronger and was eventually able to walk again.

My mum believed what James taught, that “faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless” (James 2:17). It’s our actions that make our faith evident (vv.21-26). What are these actions produced by faith? They’re not giving special attention to the rich and well-connected at the expense of the poor and marginalised (vv.1-5,8-13). Instead, they’re showing mercy (v.13) and meeting others’ needs as we’re able (vv.14-17).

When we focus on faith to the exclusion of practical care, we become irrelevant. In the same way, however, emphasising good behaviour alone denies our total dependence on God’s grace. It’s because we’re saved by God’s grace alone (Ephesians 2:8) that true believers will reflect faith and loving action (James 2:24).

We might wish to happily coast through this life, merely looking forward to the day when we’re with Jesus. But God wants us to put our faith into action. He intends to accomplish beautiful things on this earth by working in and through us.

—Ruth O’Reilly-Smith

365-day plan: Matthew 9:27-38

Read Colossians 3:13-17and consider what it means to allow Christ to rule in your heart. 
Who in your sphere of influence might God want you to care for? In what way has God equipped you to care for those in need? 

ODJ: To the Centre

July 12, 2018 

READ: 2 Chronicles 26:3-23 

When he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall (v.16).

My wife grabbed hold of one end of the rope, and I held the other. Facing each other, we began pulling on the taut cord. Why this two-person tug of war? We were helping some couples see what conflict in marriage can be like. But then—no longer tugging—one of us took a step towards the other. Soon both of us moved to the centre of the now slackening rope until our hands met in unity.

That first step to the centre required humility—something we don’t always do well. But, as the story of King Uzziah illustrates, pride has devastating consequences.

Uzziah started out well as king—taking steps towards God with a humble heart (2 Chronicles 26:4), and seeking His guidance (v.5). But then, amid all the blessings and victories God gave the king—wars won, impressive building campaigns completed, agricultural abundance, a large and well-armed army (vv.6-15)—Uzziah’s humility left him. “When [the king] had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall” (v.16). He sinned against God and was disciplined by Him—living out his remaining years in isolation due to a debilitating skin condition (v.21).

Pride is so destructive—particularly in marriage and other close relationships. In our arrogance, we could easily tug and tug in power plays that hurt those we love. Or, in humility we could take a step to the centre out of love and honour for the special person God has put in our life. As Paul wrote, “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:3-4).

A humble heart is vital for all believers in Jesus. May we choose to move to the centre—to come together in Jesus—when conflicts arise.

—Tom Felten

365-day plan: Luke 8:22-56

Consider what it means for you to be “clothed” with humility and the other qualities of Christ listed in Col. 3:12. 
Who might you need to ‘move to the centre’ for within a conflict? How does a humble heart reflect a healthy relationship with God?