ODJ: Distance

July 20, 2016 

READ: Hebrews 10:19-25  

Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near (v.25).

Reasons? He has many. As he passes several churches during his drive to the park for his Sunday run, he enjoys his solitude. In fact, he reflects on how he can connect with God just as easily—if not more so—on his own. But deep layers of pain, a multitude of rehearsed excuses and complicated explanations mask a simple reality: church has not been a safe place for him.

Some people, when offended, “sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their bitter words like arrows” (Psalm 64:3). But just as dangerous are those who attempt to remedy festering wounds with relational distance (Proverbs 18:19). Reaching those disconnected from the church requires an awareness of at least two exit doors: buried conflict and unmet expectations.

Unity with other believers in Jesus doesn’t mean conformity, and leaving conflict unaddressed only guarantees friction. Likewise, requiring agreement on non-essentials of the faith is nothing more than self-centred thinking, especially for a kingdom made of many tribes and many nations (Micah 4:2).

Equally as destructive is the mindset that says to the church, “You are here for me.” A temptation for those both inside and outside the church walls, this view can lead to cliques and consumer-like engagement. Instead, we’re called to “not neglect our meeting together...but encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25).

God came close to us that we might connect with Him and to those He holds dear: His bride, the church (vv.23-24). Ultimately, we can’t blame others if we choose distance. May we participate in God’s “life giving way” as we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit—drawing close to Him and to other believers in Jesus (vv.20,22,25).

—Regina Franklin

365-day plan: Mark 7:1-37

Read 1 Corinthians 3:4-17 and consider what this passage teaches us about critical mindsets the enemy uses to separate the body of Christ. 
What expectations do you have of fellow church members when it comes to meeting your needs? How can leaving conflict unaddressed weaken the foundation of your relationships with other believers? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: All We Need

May 3, 2016 

READ: Jeremiah 2:1-7  

I brought you into a fruitful land to enjoy its bounty and goodness (v.7).

Dan Price announced in April 2015 that he would slash his CEO salary by roughly 90 percent so he could raise the salaries of his workforce (approximately 120 employees). By doing so, Price proposed that by 2017 everyone working for him would make at least £45,000 (€60,000) per year. To make this happen, his salary dropped from £650,000 (€870,000) to £45,000 per year—matching his employee’s minimum compensation. Price did this because he wanted his employees to have all they need. News of this generosity spread quickly because it is remarkable and unusual in corporate culture.

The Scriptures repeatedly affirm how God desires for us to have all we need. He exudes persistent generosity and doesn’t deal with us like a stingy miser. Rather, God’s grace provides for a “satisfying life” (John 10:10). The prophet Jeremiah reminds Israel that He “brought [them] into a fruitful land to enjoy its bounty and goodness” (2:7).

In Genesis, God welcomed Adam and Eve into a garden of bounty, a space overflowing with fruit and love and beauty (1:31). Revelation paints a picture of a new world where goodness and plenty abound (22:1-2). Between these two stories, we find a God who showers us with provision, abundant mercy and every manner of kindness.

Though we may not receive everything we want, God pours His gifts out on us—providing what we need. Sadly, however, Jeremiah laments how Israel rejected God’s generosity and “defiled [His] land and corrupted the possession [He] promised” (2:7).

Though we may sometimes fret about our future and whether our family will have what it needs, God promises to be with us. The question is whether or not we’ll receive Him and His provision.

— Winn Collier

365-day plan: Esther 2:1-23

Read Ephesians 1:7-9. What does Paul tell us about God’s generosity? Read this text in several different translations. What various words do you notice? 
What do you feel is lacking in your life? How might you trust God for the bounty He alone can provide? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: be reconciled

September 20, 2015 

READ: Matthew 5:23-26 

If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you . . . . Go and be reconciled to that person (vv.23-24).

They sit beside each other on a straw mat—he in beige trousers and a white and purple shirt, she in a blue and yellow dress. “I participated in the killing of the son of this woman,” says Francois, one of thousands of Hutu men that perpetrated crimes against Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. “He killed my child,” says Epiphanie, “then he came to ask my pardon”.

A mother sitting by her son’s killer? How can this be? Through reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a common thread in Jesus’ teaching. He blesses the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), teaches nonretaliation in conflict (vv.38-42) and calls us to forgive those who’ve wronged us (6:12,14-15).

Jesus wants us to pursue reconciliation in all of our relationships. He gives two examples of areas where conflict will naturally arise—in church and in society. If at church we remember we’ve offended someone, we’re to ask that person’s forgiveness before we continue to participate in other activities (5:23-24). And if a dispute arises with a neighbour, we’re to seek reconciliation before the neighbour takes the matter to court (vv.25-26). Jesus’ directive extends to all of our relationships: when we’re the offender, we’re to admit our fault and be reconciled.

Jesus never said reconciliation would be easy. It wasn’t for Him (2 Corinthians 5:19-21). And it hasn’t been for Rwandans, where reconciliation has required time, training, mediation and prayer. But if Epiphanie and Francois can reconcile, can’t that breathe hope into us?

“Before,” Epiphanie says of Francois, “I treated him like my enemy. But now, I would rather treat him like my own child”.

In Christ, even deep conflict and pain can be transformed by reconciliation.

—Sheridan Voysey

365-day-plan: Mark 14:26-52

Read Romans 12:17-18 for practical instruction on how to heal broken relationships. 
How have you seen God reconcile your relationships? Is there anyone with whom you need to be reconciled? How will you proceed? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: crossing the line

June 27, 2015 

READ: Acts 10:34-48 

God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean (10:28).

The deaf community at the midsize American church was struggling. Two of their most faithful members had died. Their longtime interpreter was retiring, and the church was changing pastors.

The new pastor knew the importance of speaking to people in their language, so he worked on his sign-language skills. One Sunday, prior to the worship service, he struck up a halting conversation with one of the deaf seated near the front. Soon he stepped off the platform and sat down next to her. He paid close attention to her signs and carefully signed back. He asked questions and accepted her patient correction of his signing mistakes.

The deaf seated around them noticed! That pastor made himself vulnerable and crossed the line into their world.

The apostle Peter crossed a big line into a new world—the world of the Gentiles. As a devout Jew, he carefully followed the prohibitions against eating certain foods or entering the home of a Gentile. But God was smashing the walls that divided people, so in a vision He spoke to Cornelius, a God-fearing Roman military leader (see Acts 10:1-7). Then he spoke to Peter (vv.9-21). Soon Peter went to the centurion’s house, and the church grew in ways previously unimagined! (vv.34-48). Luke writes, “The Jewish believers . . . were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too” (v.45).

—Tim Gustafson

365-day-plan: Mark 2:23–3:19

Read Acts 10:1-33 to see how God used Cornelius and Peter to smash the division between Gentile and Jewish believers. 
What can you do in your church or neighbourhood to turn some walls into bridges? How does Jesus’ example of crossing the line encourage you to do the same? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)