HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, January 30, 2022
Youtube link... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_0g1Z1Q4HY
Teaching Series - “Doing Life with Jesus"
Weekly Topic - “Jesus’ Disciples”
Texts – Luke 6:12-16; 9:1-6; 10:1-17; 8:1-3, 26-39; John 16:1-15, 60-71
Our theme for 2022 is “Doing Life with Jesus.” This month we have considered the incarnation—when God became human, Jesus’ childhood and the beginning of his ministry. Today, we are going to take a look at some of the people who chose to ‘do life with Jesus’ when he walked on planet earth—his disciples.
How many disciples did Jesus have? More than twelve! For those who have not been following along with us this week in our focus on Jesus’ disciples, let’s find out what the Scriptures say.
Luke 6:12-16 – “12 One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. 13 At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. Here are their names:
14 Simon (whom he named Peter),
Andrew (Peter’s brother),
James (son of Alphaeus),
Simon (who was called the zealot),
16 Judas (son of James),
Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).”
The twelve men initially chosen for special assignment from amongst all the disciples were given the designation of ‘apostle.’ Some confusion exists because the twelve are referred to as both apostles and disciples, as they were both, but for that reason we should not assume that they were the only ones. So, what is the difference between a ‘disciple’ and an ‘apostle?’
“In Christianity, ‘disciple’ primarily refers to a dedicated follower of Jesus. This term is found in the New Testament only in the Gospels and Acts. In the ancient world, a disciple is a follower or adherent of a teacher. It is not the same as being a student in the modern sense. A disciple in the ancient biblical world actively imitated both the life and teaching of the master. It was a deliberate apprenticeship which made the fully formed disciple a living copy of the master.” 1
“An ‘apostle,’ in its most literal sense, is an emissary, from Greek ἀπόστολος (apóstolos), literally "one who is sent off", from the verb ἀποστέλλειν (apostéllein), "to send off". The purpose of such sending off is usually to convey a message, and thus "messenger" is a common alternative translation; other common translations include "ambassador" and "envoy". The term derives from the Greek of the New Testament and was used for Jesus's original Twelve Apostles (including Peter, James, and John), as well as a wider group of early Christian figures, including Paul, Barnabas, and Junia. Some other religions use the term for comparable figures in their history. The word in this sense may be used metaphorically in various contexts, but is mostly found used specifically for early associates of the founder of a religion, who were important in spreading his or her teachings.” 2
Notice that in Luke 9, Jesus sends out the twelve, “One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. 2 Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick… So they began their circuit of the villages, preaching the Good News and healing the sick” (Luke 9:1-2,6).
Then in Luke 10, he sends out seventy-two disciples, “The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit….16 Then he said to the disciples, “Anyone who accepts your message is also accepting me. And anyone who rejects you is rejecting me. And anyone who rejects me is rejecting God, who sent me.” 17 When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name” (Luke 10:1,16-17).
These two groups are essentially sent out to do the same task. As Jesus’ disciples spent time with their teacher and they began to think and act more like him, he would then ‘send them off’ to do the work. We, too, are all to be disciples—students of Jesus—and some of us will be ‘sent off’ to do the work of an apostle—sent to spread the Good News to those who have had no introduction to Jesus at all. In a sense, we are all called to serve as ‘apostles’ within our own spheres of influence, whether next door to our neighbours or to the other side of the world.
Okay, so we know that Jesus had twelve plus seventy-two disciples/apostles. What else do we know about those who followed him?
Women Disciples – Luke 8:1-3 – “Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, 2 along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; 3 Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.”
Jesus had women disciples, and the inclusion of Junia as an apostle in Paul’s letter to the Romans (chapter 16), tells us that there were also women apostles. Attempts have been made through the centuries to dismiss these women, but the reality is that Jesus accepted women as his followers, even entrusting them with messages: the Samaritan woman at the well was instrumental in providing an introduction for Jesus (John 4) and Mary Magdalene received the honour of being the first to see Jesus resurrected (John 20). When he took the twelve chosen disciples on a field trip, many women are also found in their group…accompanying Jesus as his students. Jesus did not have an ‘all boys club.’
However, not all of Jesus’ disciples traveled with him either; some chose to live for Jesus, not by literally following him from place to place, but from their place of residence—both of their own volition and because of Jesus’ encouragement to do so.
Healed Demoniac – Luke 8:26-39 – “26 So they arrived in the region of the Gerasenes, across the lake from Galilee. 27 As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. For a long time he had been homeless and naked, living in the tombs outside the town. 28 As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell down in front of him. Then he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please, I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had already commanded the evil spirit to come out of him.”
What follows next is a conversation between Jesus and the demons, during which he permits them to enter a nearby herd of pigs…which then run headlong down the steep hillside and into the lake thereby drowning. The herdsmen are freaked out and run throughout the countryside and into town explaining what has happened…they don’t want to risk being blamed!
35 People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons. He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. 36 Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them. So Jesus returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake. 38 The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, 39 “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.”
The healed man pleads to go with Jesus, but Jesus tells him to return to his family and tell them what has happened. Despite his disappointment, he obeys. But he doesn’t stop there. Mark’s gospel tells us that he traveled throughout the Decapolis…a region known as Ten Towns…spreading the news as he went. His is an immediate and unfettered loving devotion. Here is a man, newly healed and Jesus immediately sends him out as an apostle.
However, not all who followed Jesus shared this man’s belief in him as the Messiah.
Crowds – Various Scriptures - The gospels also tell us about the crowds that followed Jesus wherever he went. While some of these undoubtedly became disciples of Jesus, many were just spectators…and they were very persistent. John writes, “A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick…5 Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him…10 “Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. 12 After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” 13 So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves. 14 When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” 15 When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself” (John 6:1-15).
They were excited about Jesus—especially the miracles—and wanted more. They were even prepared to make him king! But crowds are fickle. Stop giving them what they want and they can soon turn on you. Jesus knew this. As long as he healed the sick and continued to provide a free lunch, they followed…incessantly. They never grew tired of being entertained. John continues his story to explain what happened next and confirms what Jesus already knew…within 24 hours many of these so-called followers did reject him…the very ones who had wanted to force him to become king.
What happened? Well, after escaping from them the night before, they again tracked Jesus down. This time he began to teach them about his purpose for coming; he had not come to be an earthly king, but to give spiritual life. He was going to sacrifice himself in order to provide a way to once again enjoy a relationship with God. The crowd demanded proof…despite the fact that he had just fed more than 5,000 at once with five loaves and two fish.
Jesus then drew a metaphorical parallel between God sending manna in the wilderness to sustain physical health and God sending him to be the bread and drink that would sustain them spiritually. But they were so stuck wanting him to take care of their physical needs that the metaphor went entirely over their heads.
John 6:60-71 – “60 Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”
61 Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? 63 The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) 65 Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.”
66 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”
68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
70 Then Jesus said, “I chose the twelve of you, but one is a devil.” 71 He was speaking of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, one of the Twelve, who would later betray him.”
John is clear…the ones who walked away were not merely the gawkers. They had been disciples of Jesus. But he was clearly not living up to their expectations. No amount of miracles could convince them. In their minds, the Messiah was meant to kick out the Romans and bring in a new day of peace and self-governance for the Jewish people…not talk some sort of mumbo jumbo about flesh and blood!
They remained blind to Jesus’ purpose…his coming sacrifice…and the spiritual renewal that would take place as a result of his death. They had known him and witnessed God’s power at work in him; but when he didn’t live up to their own faulty expectations, they walked away.
Jesus had been telling them of spiritual things and of a time to come. Today, as we celebrate communion, we live out the reality of his teaching—we live in a privileged place this side of the resurrection. We eat the bread in remembrance of his broken body and drink the juice in remembrance of his shed blood. We no longer possess a confusing metaphor, but the promise of new life.
Questions to ponder…
· As students of Jesus, are we becoming living copies of our Teacher? Or, just good fakes?
· What are we doing with the knowledge we are gaining? Are we willing to serve as ‘apostles’…sharing our faith with those who do not know Jesus and the possibility of forgiveness and eternity in heaven?
· Do we have faulty expectations of Jesus that threaten to cause us to turn our backs on God if they aren’t met? What happens when life gets tough?
· Are we ready to obey Jesus’ call on our lives—both to ‘come follow’ and to be a light where we are at? Does God have the freedom to do with our lives as he sees fit?
References and for further study / inspiration…
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disciple_(Christianity) – Retrieved Friday, January 28, 2022
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostle - Retrieved Friday, January 28, 2022
Blog - https://lovedbibleproject.com/what-is-a-disciple-maker/ (The Loved Bible Project – What is a Disciple-Maker)
Music - “Jesus People” Danny Gokey - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP4-aD4Y7DY&list=PLuec7k8GjI1H_C4NsoP3d6E1KxsuZf9F2&index=4
Sunday, February 6, 2022 – 2022 Theme - “Doing Life with Jesus – Jesus’ First Miracles” – In-person and Online
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional – Wednesday, January 26, 2022
‘Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”’ (Matthew 16:24, NLT)
If someone were to ask a group of Christians how many disciples Jesus had, I can almost guarantee that the majority of people would answer, “twelve”…and they would all be wrong! Jesus did choose twelve men from amongst his disciples to be apostles (Luke 6:13), but as to how many people followed Jesus as his disciples, he had far more. As you read through the book of Luke, you begin to gain a better understanding of the people who followed Jesus. Jesus had women among his followers and many of these ladies had the means to be able to not only follow, but they also financially supported the work being done (Luke 8:1-3). Later, Luke tells us of when Jesus sent out the twelve apostles for a little field experience—to preach and to heal people (Luke 9:1-6); some time after their return, he sends out seventy-two of his disciples to do the same (Luke 10:1-20).
When we reduce the number of disciples to the twelve apostles, we lose sight of the vast following that Jesus had during the time he walked on this earth. People wanted to be with him. They heard in his teaching an authority that the religious leaders did not possess. They witnessed raw power as he performed miracles—healing sicknesses, casting out demons and even controlling the weather. They experienced an acceptance and love that had been withheld from many of them during their lifetimes. As Jesus travelled from town to town, his group of disciples grew.
However, John does tell us that not all who started to follow Jesus continued to do so. Jesus taught some difficult things (John 6) and some who were initially eager, deserted him…and their belief in him. Jesus accepts anyone who chooses to be his disciple, but we must continue to choose him. Following Jesus does not guarantee ease in this life, but his disciples can be certain of eternal life in heaven with him if we stay true. Hold fast to Jesus…walk with him each day…learn the ways of the Master…and be astounded at what he can and will do in and through those who choose to obey him. Yes, you can be his disciple too!
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, January 23, 2022
Youtube link... https://youtu.be/wLfZFB7scVQ
Teaching Series - “Doing Life with Jesus"
Weekly Topic - “Jesus Begins His Ministry”
Texts – Matthew 3-4:17, Mark 1:1-15, Luke 3:1-22; 4:1-44; John 1:19-34
Prior to Jesus making his debut at the age of thirty, his cousin John the Baptist had been diligently at work to prepare the way for the Messiah. John may have heard the stories of Jesus’ conception, but he was still looking for the sign confirming who the Messiah was. John the Apostle records in his Gospel what John the Baptist said about Jesus after he baptized him at the Jordan River, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit’” (John 1:29-33).
And so began Jesus’ ministry and the task of convincing everyone that he was not merely a man, but also the Son of God.
Jesus’ baptism served as a public declaration, the catalyst for his three years of ministry and as an act of obedience required by God. It also provides us with a glimpse into the nature of the Trinity; it is an intimate moment between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit that was witnessed by those present.
Matthew 3:13-17 – “13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” 15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.
16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
Here is the moment that identified Jesus as the Messiah after having lived many years in relative obscurity. John felt unworthy to baptize Jesus, knowing what he did, but Jesus told him that it was necessary. Why?
Jesus’ baptism was his way of telling the Father, “I’m committed!” Jesus remained submitted to the will of the Father. He understood the purpose for his humanity. He knew what was to come. And through his baptism, he demonstrated his willingness to die so that many could be raised to life through his sacrifice.
Jesus’ baptism also demonstrated that the moment had arrived for him to begin his ministry. He was saying not only to the Father, but to all those who had been waiting for the Messiah, “I’m ready—the time has come!” Even John the Baptist received needed confirmation as to the identity of the Messiah. Family stories aside, here stood the Son of God, ready to fulfill his life’s purpose.
I also believe his baptism was a sign for all who would come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. He was telling all who would choose to follow him, to also follow his example, “Do as I do—follow me!” When John hesitated to baptize Jesus, Jesus told him it was necessary…in fact, it was required. This was the beginning of a new covenant between God and man, and baptism would serve as the sign of an individual’s commitment to enter into that covenant relationship with him.
But why would God the Father require Jesus, God the Son, to be baptized? Jesus understood it to be an act of obedience and didn’t waver in his loyalty. And the Father and the Spirit responded with loving affirmation—the Spirit physically coming to him in that moment in the form of a dove and the Father declaring from heaven, ‘This is my Son. And I am pleased with him.”
Can you imagine that moment for Jesus? Such a ‘mountain top’ experience…followed immediately by time spent in a spiritual ‘valley.’ The devil doesn’t know everything, but he did know that Jesus was the Son of God…and that Jesus was an integral part of some scheme of God’s to defeat him. So, after Jesus’ forty day fast, the devil seizes his opportunity. He may never again find Jesus at such a weak point physically and chooses this moment to test to see if there are any ‘chinks’ in Jesus’ armour.
“TESTS” - Matthew 4:1-11
TEST #1 – Matthew 4:1-4 – “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. 2 For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. 3 During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”
4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
First, the devil wanted to test Jesus’ resolve to sacrifice his own comforts for God’s plan. How weak had having a physical body made God? He knew Jesus was beyond mere hunger and encouraged him to turn stones to bread…if he was really the Son of God.
What harm could it do? There’s no explicit rule against performing a miracle of this nature—why shouldn’t Jesus satisfy his hunger? But, Jesus wasn’t about to put his physical needs above his spiritual needs. He knew he needed to stay connected with the Father in order to fulfill his mission, so time with God needed to take precedence. He rejected the suggestion and chose to remain hungry until God told him his fast was over.
TEST #2- Matthew 4:5-7 – “5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, 6 and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”
7 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”
The devil’s next test was designed to gauge how insecure this new God-man was? How easily could his ego and self-worth be manipulated? This time, he cloaks his test as a scriptural promise. If there’s one thing the devil isn’t in short supply of, it’s nerve. Can you imagine quoting scripture to the Son of God? “Jump! And make God catch you.”
This test was encouraging Jesus to test God—to force God to prove his promises and his love of Jesus. At Jesus’ baptism, God had already declared that Jesus was his Son and that he was pleased with him. For Jesus to seek further validation would have been self-serving and demonstrate a lack of trust in God. Jesus recognized the error of this type of thinking and he rejected it.
TEST #3 – Matthew 4:8-11 – “8 Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”
10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”
11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.”
The devil was testing Jesus’ loyalty and his commitment to God’s plan. He was offering him a shortcut to becoming ‘king.’ Jesus knew the road he was embarking on, what his future held, and the devil was offering him a way out. The devil didn’t know what Jesus did, didn’t know that he had come to fulfill the role of the suffering king (Isaiah 53), so may not have realized just how tempting this test could have been. His suggestion that Jesus bow to him was the devil’s most overt attempt to have Jesus disobey an explicit commandment.
By this point, Jesus had enough and told the devil to leave. This last test hadn’t even been subtle or disguised and Jesus rejected the suggestion outright. And after the devil was gone…and go he must because Jesus is God…angels came and attended to his needs. He had passed these tests. But don’t think of this as the only time that Jesus faced temptation. Temptation would have been a regular part of Jesus’ earthly life, just as it is ours, but he never gave in and remained sinless.
Now, having successfully passed the devil’s tests, it was time to begin his work as the Messiah. The reception he received from people, however, was mixed.
Nazareth, Jesus’ Hometown - Luke 4:16-29 – “When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, 19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” 22 Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
23 Then he said, “You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ 24 But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. 25 Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 And many in Israel had leprosy in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”
28 When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. 29 Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, 30 but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.”
Jesus already knows that those in his own hometown and even his family will not believe he is the Messiah, but he still chooses to go there and make his first pronouncement in the synagogue at Nazareth. He begins with the passage in Isaiah that ‘the time of God’s favour has come’ and is now. The Jews have been looking forward to the Messiah’s coming and this part of his message goes over well. However, Jesus’ message takes on a tone of reproof and the mood swiftly changes.
He makes the startling claim that he, the one they will reject, is the very One that Isaiah was prophesying about. Because they thought Jesus was just another guy from Nazareth, this claim to being the Messiah was considered blasphemy punishable by death. No one claims to be God and gets away with it! Luke then records how his rejection at Nazareth resulted in the second attempt on Jesus’ life. They force him to the edge of town with the intent of killing him, but he escapes. This was not the time or means by which he was going to sacrifice his life and so ‘passes right through the crowd.’ We’re not told how—were they momentarily blinded? did time literally stand still?—who knows. But because it wasn’t in God’s plan, he left town unharmed and headed to Capernaum.
Capernaum – Luke 4:31-44 - “31 Then Jesus went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught there in the synagogue every Sabbath day. 32 There, too, the people were amazed at his teaching, for he spoke with authority.
33 Once when he was in the synagogue, a man possessed by a demon—an evil spirit—cried out, shouting, 34 “Go away! Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 35 But Jesus reprimanded him. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the demon threw the man to the floor as the crowd watched; then it came out of him without hurting him further. 36 Amazed, the people exclaimed, “What authority and power this man’s words possess! Even evil spirits obey him, and they flee at his command!” 37 The news about Jesus spread through every village in the entire region.
38 After leaving the synagogue that day, Jesus went to Simon’s home, where he found Simon’s mother-in-law very sick with a high fever. “Please heal her,” everyone begged. 39 Standing at her bedside, he rebuked the fever, and it left her. And she got up at once and prepared a meal for them.
40 As the sun went down that evening, people throughout the village brought sick family members to Jesus. No matter what their diseases were, the touch of his hand healed every one. 41 Many were possessed by demons; and the demons came out at his command, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But because they knew he was the Messiah, he rebuked them and refused to let them speak.
42 Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. 43 But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.” 44 So he continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea.”
The people of Capernaum responded very differently to his teaching than his hometown had. Both were amazed at the authority of his teaching, but while Nazareth rejected his words…after all they knew him—he wasn’t anyone special…the people of Capernaum’s belief resulted in Jesus doing many miracles. Rather than wanting him dead, they wanted to keep Jesus to themselves.
But again, Jesus is not dissuaded from his mission. Neither rejection nor acceptance could distract him from the work God had for him to do. He needed to get the word out. The promised Messiah had come…there were miracles to be done…lessons to be taught…people to be loved into God’s kingdom…and a cross that must be born.
· Being a Christian means following Jesus’ example. He is our teacher…we are the students. Jesus was baptized, therefore we too ought to be baptized—publicly declaring our commitment to Jesus, readiness to follow and to die to self.
· We often use our physical needs as an excuse to skimp on our spiritual needs. We get so busy making a life on planet earth, we forget our greater needs. There is no legitimate excuse for not spending time with God or for disobedience; if something must be cut, let it never be the spiritual disciplines that cause us to grow in our relationship with God and in our likeness to his Son.
· How often do we find ourselves doubting God’s love for us and playing the, ‘If you really loved me…’ game. We want him to prove his love, by rescuing us from some predicament…often self-inflicted…but he has already revealed to us the measure of his great love when he sent his only Son. Demanding that he prove his love over and over, shows up as ingratitude for the tremendous sacrifice he has already made on our behalf and a distrust of his promises.
· Temptations come in all shapes and sizes…disguised as legitimate, or with no disguise at all…simply as a means of achieving a desired end. The devil is a master of deception, even appearing as an ‘angel of light’ when he chooses. Beware. If something appears to be drawing us from a path that God has set us on, proceed with caution. Pray to recognize the traps before it's too late and end up falling in. God will forgive us when we disobey him, when we repent and ask him to, but how much better not to have to seek his forgiveness in the first place.
· Jesus was not influenced by either rejection or acceptance. As his followers, we are to carry on his work of introducing people to God’s truth. When we come up against rejection, we are not to wear ourselves ragged trying to persuade others…there are times when the best action to take is to simply walk away. Yet, at the same time, we are not to allow the acceptance by others to create a rut into which we settle, never venturing beyond what is comfortable. We are called to be God’s Ambassadors…people must hear, but will not unless we share the Good News that now gives us incredible hope for each new day!
For further study / inspiration….
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0k4GbvZUPuo (The Bible Project – Luke 3-9)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRX-r51_1TA (“We All Need Jesus” by Danny Gokey)
Sunday, January 30, 2022 – 2022 Theme - “Doing Life with Jesus – Jesus’ Disciples: A Motley Crew” – In-person and Online
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional – Wednesday, January 19, 2022
“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, NLT)
Did Jesus ever experience ‘good days’ and ‘bad days?’ Days when he was more eager to jump out of bed than others? Days that began with a certain amount of dread because he knew what was coming? Days when a cold or flu left him drained and needing to spend the day at home? I don’t know how he couldn’t—he was human after all. And at the very beginning of his ministry, we find two strikingly different stories—one detailing a moment that must have left Jesus in a state of joy and anticipation, immediately followed by an encounter that would have been potentially exhausting…even for the Son of God.
Matthew details both Jesus’ baptism and his temptation by the devil. His baptism was an occasion for him to publicly declare to his Father his willingness to begin the work he had been given to do. In response, God publicly acknowledged his Son when he spoke from heaven, “This is my Son and I am very pleased with him,” accompanied by the Holy Spirit coming in the form of a dove to land on Jesus…further signifying which man God was referring to. Can you imagine that moment for Jesus? What son or daughter doesn’t love hearing their parent tell them how proud they are of them or have them cheering from the stands, shouting, “That’s my kid!”
Yet, after what must have been an incredible ‘high’ for Jesus, he was put into a pressure cooker of sorts. The Spirit lead him into the wilderness, where he spent the next forty days fasting and praying. After only a couple days of not eating, we often find our energy waning and we begin to suffer from headache or light headedness. Now imagine forty days…
The devil, being ever opportunistic, chose to interrupt Jesus’ fasting and praying with three tests. Satan knows he may never find Jesus at such a weak place physically ever again and presses his advantage. Each of the tests were meant to entice Jesus to take control over his own physical well-being…and distrust God’s plan for him, both in the immediate and the days to come. Jesus rejects each one in turn before finally telling the devil that it is time for him to leave. And due to the fact that Jesus was God, the devil had no option but to obey. It is clear, however, that the extended fast and this confrontation took its toll. After the devil left, Matthew tells us that angels came to minister to Jesus…as a man, he was in need of their care.
Sometimes we get down on ourselves for feeling ‘down.’ As believers, shouldn’t we always be emotionally ‘up?’ I don’t think so. We can know peace and joy and hope and gratefulness…yet still experience moments when we may need an extra infusion of God’s grace to make it through our day. The aim is not to be unfalteringly happy. It is to be content as we work each day to obey God…both in the highs and the lows of life.
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, January 16, 2022
Teaching Series - “Doing Life with Jesus"
Weekly Topic - “The God-Boy”
Texts – Matthew 2:7-8, 12-16, 19-23; Matt. 13:55-56; Mark 3:20-21; John 7:1-5; Luke 2:41-52
Having just come through the Christmas season, the story of Jesus’ birth is fresh in our minds. And many of us could also share a number of details from his life as an adult. But what do we know of his childhood or his teen years…what can we learn of Jesus’ life between infancy until he began his ministry at the age of thirty? You might assume that’s an empty chapter in the life of Jesus, but on closer inspection there are some things we can know about Jesus as the God-boy.
Today, we’re going to begin with one of the stories that often marks the end of the Christmas story narrative…that of the wisemen and King Herod.
Matthew 2:7-8, 12-16, 19-23 – “7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”…
12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. 13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”
16 Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance….
19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”
21 So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22 But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. 23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
After spending the earliest part of his life in Bethlehem as a baby, Jesus’ family was forced to flee to Egypt when he was a toddler. Jesus was a child with a price on his head. And his life resulted in the murder of all the two-year-old boys and younger in and around Bethlehem as Herod attempted to eliminate him as a rival to his throne.
But he escaped Herod’s massacre when Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt. As a result, Jesus spent part of his formative years as a refugee in a foreign country. As to how long he lived in Egypt with Mary and Joseph, there is room for debate. Scholars cannot agree, with some suggesting Jesus was in Egypt from 4 months to 4 years or more. The difficulty arises because we don’t know the exact year of Jesus birth, how long after the wise men came or even the exact timing of Herod’s death. But regardless of how long the family lived in Egypt or how old Jesus was when they returned, they lived for a time as refugees forced to leave their homeland to escape the murderous machinations of the ever-paranoid and power-hungry King Herod.
But when they returned to their homeland, they couldn’t just settle anywhere either…Herod’s son now sat on the throne. Joseph was concerned this could spell trouble and God confirmed to him in a dream that he should steer clear of the province of Judea; so, Joseph took the family back to the place that he had been living when he had first met Mary, back to her hometown of Nazareth. In some respects, Nazareth was perfect. It was out of the way and Jesus and their other children would grow up surrounded by family, with cousins to play with, aunts, uncles and grandparents.
But their return did not mean the family would necessarily be welcomed back with open arms. People tend to have long memories when it comes to the moral failures of others, and even though Mary and Joseph knew the truth of Jesus’ conception, many others, even if told, would not have believed them. I have no doubt that Jesus and his immediate family would have experienced their fair share of sideways glances and gossip behind their backs at least for a time.
However, I am also certain that over time, people would have grown accustomed to having them back and the gossip would have subsided. Over the years the family grew as Mary and Joseph had more children and Jesus would have assumed the role of big brother.
I must admit, growing up in the church that I did, I had no real clue about Jesus’ siblings. They were never talked about much and they were for all intents and purposes non-characters. But Jesus did grow up in a large family and as we all know, there is a difference between growing up as an only child and one of many. So, what do we know of his family?
Matthew 13:55-56 – “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?”
During Jesus’ years of ministry, people flocked to be near him, listen to his teaching and to receive healing…except in his own hometown. To them, he was just the carpenter’s son; how could he possibly know what he was talking about when he taught from Scripture and about God. Everyone knew he had four brothers and at least two sisters, though from the phrase, “all his sisters’ Jesus probably had three or more sisters and not just two. But is there anything else we know about his family? We can find clues from his years of ministry, too.
Mark 3:20-21 – “20 One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. 21 When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said.”
Not only did Jesus’ hometown think he was just an ordinary guy, so did his family. At the height of his ministry, when the crowds were coming in non-stop droves, his immediate family were not supportive. In fact, they thought he’d gone crazy…he’s delusional…he’s given himself a breakdown…he’s out of control…he needs to be taken in hand!
In the past, I always wondered if Jesus’ response to the arrival of his mother and brothers wasn’t a bit too harsh. Matthew’s account of this scene doesn’t include the fact that his family was coming to stop him and steal him away. But when I put Mark’s account together with it, Jesus’ response to the news that his family had arrived and wanted to speak to him outside of the house makes sense. He rejects their request. He asked ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? …Anyone who does the will of my Father is my true family!’ He was saying, without directly saying it, that if his immediate family couldn’t get on board, they weren’t really his family at all, not in the way that mattered. We aren’t told how they responded, but his declaration must have stung.
John also records an interaction between Jesus and his brothers that definitely points to the existence of some friction amongst the family.
John 7:1-5 – “After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. 2 But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, 3 and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! 4 You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” 5 For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.
Jesus had refused to be corralled by his family and even disassociated from them when he identified those who believed in him as his true family. So, the next time his brothers show up in the story, it is therefore not all that surprising that they chose to taunt him…who did he think he was? What made him more special than the rest of his family? If he could reject them, they could return the favour!
Certainly, Jesus had always been the ‘good son,’ but rather than causing his brothers to believe in him, his familiarity caused them to reject that he could be anything more than just another brother. Their jealousy and misunderstanding threatened to cause a rift in their relationship with him. He couldn’t possibly be who he claimed to be…he was just Jesus.
Even if not every member of his family was convinced, Jesus was certain, even as a child, of his identity and mission. Which brings us to the only story from Jesus’ childhood recorded by the Gospel writers (after their return from Egypt) concerning an incident that took place when Jesus was just a pre-teen at the age of twelve.
“SON OF GOD”
Luke 2:41-52 – “41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
How did he get ‘lost?’ Probably through a miscommunication, or someone only half paying attention to what they were being told…it happens…even in Jesus’ family. So, Mary and Joseph leave the city with the remainder of their immediate and extended family and don’t even realize that Jesus hasn’t been hanging around with cousins, brothers and/or friends until the end of the day. They immediately return to Jerusalem, but don’t find him until after three days of searching. He’s been at the Temple the whole time.
Jesus was not a kid that parents had to drag to church. He wanted to be in the Temple. He recognized it both as the house of his Father and the place to gain more understanding. [For those of you who joined us last week, this is another oxymoron of the God-man—all knowing God, needing to learn!] They find him asking questions, listening and engaging with the responses given. He demonstrated a level of understanding of God and his Laws not commonly found in a twelve-year-old.
From this we can know that Jesus was an intelligent child, able to understand and make inferences, and unafraid to hangout with adults and religious leaders. He was comfortable in his own skin—not always the case for a pre-teen as they enter into puberty.
By the time his parents found him, they had become panicky and flustered. Mary accused Jesus of having caused them to worry and even implied that he had disrespected them when she demanded, “Why have you treated your father and I this way?” His response was unperturbed and a bit of a reality check for her, “Why were you looking? It should have been obvious to you where I would be.” But, even though they knew the origins of his conception, his answer left them confused.
Even Jesus’ parents, who knew he was the promised Messiah, just didn’t get it. How did Jesus respond? Not in stereotypical rebellious teen fashion! John tells us that he submitted to them, returned to Nazareth and continued to be a ‘good son’…growing both physically, earning a good reputation amongst his neighbours and growing closer to God.
For further study…
Enduring Word Commentary (Philippians 2) - https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/philippians-2/
Sunday, January 23, 2022 – 2022 Theme - “Doing Life with Jesus – Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry”
Daily Devotional – Wednesday, January 12, 2022
“She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” (Luke 2:7, NLT)
Can you imagine being given the task of parenting the Son of God? On one hand, this would have been a unique privilege. But, too, what an incredibly fearful prospect! We often focus on Mary’s assent to giving birth to Jesus, and Joseph’s obedience in marrying the already pregnant Mary; but little if any thought is given to the years between Jesus’ birth and when he began his ministry at the age of 30. What must it have been like to raise God’s one and only Son?
Mary and Joseph must have at times felt so inadequate to the task. After all they were regular people like you and I. They had a large family consisting of Jesus, plus four brothers and at least two sisters. They naturally would have made mistakes being imperfect humans, all under the watchful eye of their perfect Son. Talk about pressure!
It would have been one thing to parent Jesus if he didn’t actually know the origins of his birth and had come to that understanding only as an adult. But the Bible is clear, that already at the young age of twelve Jesus knew exactly who he was. When he got separated from his parents while visiting Jerusalem, he went to the Temple. When Mary and Joseph found him…after a frantic search…he asked them why they had to search at all. Didn’t they know he would be in his Father’s house (Luke 2:49)?
It would have been such a unique experience, raising Jesus, to find oneself having to deal with your own insecurities rather than those of your child. And then, to have ‘normal’ children to raise after having a child so perfect…quite literally. With Jesus they would have had to use all the required parenting skills as he learned to walk, eat and during potty training; they would have tended to his cuts, bruises and tears when he got his first teeth; but they never had to deal with tantrums or willful disobedience…at least not until their other children arrived.
How did God prepare them for this most special task? Joseph and Mary received training on the job. Jesus wasn’t born to parents who had it all together and would never make mistakes. But God had chosen two people who He knew would unhesitatingly follow His directions and obey Him—valuable examples for His Son.
Has God called you to do a job? Have you hesitated because you don’t feel up to the task? What if you make mistakes? Then you might want to take a page from the life of Mary and Joseph. Obey…follow…and do your best with the help of God who has called you for this moment!
Hope Chapel - Sunday, January 9th
Youtube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C16vqtRxRQ
Teaching Series - Doing Life with Jesus
Weekly Topic - Jesus’ Humiliation
Texts – Philippians 2:1-11, Hebrews 12:2, Hebrews 8:6, 10:16-18, Luke 24:37-43, 1 Corinthians 15:20-21, Philippians 3:21
Last week, we introduced our theme for 2022 of “Doing Life with Jesus.” I don’t know if you’ve noticed this in your own life, but when we live with someone for long enough, our shared experiences can cause us to begin to think similarly, react in the same way, until we are able to literally finish one another’s sentences. After 25 years of marriage, Donald and I have learned not to be surprised when we find ourselves having the identical reaction or thought…at the exact same moment. We still retain our individuality, but we increasingly become like the ones we do life with.
The same is to be true of our relationship with Jesus. The more time we spend with Him, the more we will become like Him. The Bible tells us we are to become like Jesus in our actions, thoughts and words, but we cannot if He remains a veritable stranger. It is not good enough to claim to be one of His disciples…doing life with Him necessitates that we change into His likeness. There are many ways we need to change to become like Jesus, and today, we’re going to begin with one of the big ones.
We’re going to begin in Philippians 2:5 and cover what Paul has to tell us about Jesus’ character prior to circling around to discover what implications it has for us in our daily lives.
Daily Devotional – Wednesday, January 5, 2022
“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:17-18, NLT)
This year, as we examine what it means to ‘do life with Jesus’ we will be exploring how Jesus lived His life…after all, we cannot become like Jesus if we do not know Him. Paul understood his need to become like His Master and he encouraged the church in Philippi to have the same attitude as Jesus…the attitude of utter humility. Paul points the believers to Jesus’ example at the incarnation—God became man. Jesus did not count the cost to Himself, He just knew what was needed and gave up His divine rights for our restoration to Himself (Philippians 2) without hesitation.
But, how exactly are we to demonstrate that level of humility? None of us has that much to give up! James puts Paul’s ‘have the same attitude as Christ’ a different way: be ‘willing to yield to others.’ In our world, and even in today’s Church, the idea of giving way to another is foreign. Take for example our need to be ‘first.’ School children naturally jostle to be first…first in line, first outside at recess, first to get the ball in gym. As adults we’re no better. On any given commuter day, how often have you experienced someone slowing down to pull in behind you…rather than speeding up and cutting in front? And before we become too critical of others, we would do well to do a mirror check. How many of us are guilty of leaving our Christlike-humility at home once we step into our vehicles…or go through the door at work…or during grocery shopping?
Or how about our need to be ‘right.’ Too many of us have chosen too many hills that we are willing to battle to the death on…in order to prove that we are in the right. Jesus chose to get confrontational at times, too, but He was very selective. He most often went toe-to-toe with those who in their own smug self-assuredness misrepresented God—in other words the religious. He took on the Pharisees and Sadducees, not because He wanted to prove His point, but so that others would not be dragged into a type of slavery to religious observances that had little to do with the truth or worship of God. Is our need to be right based on demonstrating new levels of love through relationship with God or is it just our own pride manifesting itself once again?
The Bible has an amazing amount to say about our need to adopt an attitude of humility, such as, ‘consider others’ needs before your own.’ ‘Don’t demand your own way.’ ‘Submit to one another.’ ‘Bear with each other’…I think you get the point! We need to become humble disciples of our humble Rabbi. We need to learn to have the same attitude as Christ…we need to learn to give way to others, even though it may cost us.
Hope Chapel - Sunday, January 1, 2022
Teaching Series - “Doing Life with Jesus"
Weekly Topic - “Going Deep, Growing Strong”
Texts – Psalm 87, 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, Matthew 26:36-39, Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 2:6-7
On this first Sunday of 2022, I want to ask what you might think is a bit of a redundant question: Where does your faith lie? What could you not live without? The Apostle Paul tells us that only our faith in Jesus will amount to anything in the grand scheme of eternity. We cannot become righteous or even ‘good enough’ on our own, because righteousness comes from Christ alone. We cannot ever please God apart from Jesus, so there is no entrance into God’s presence without Him.
But, can we honestly say with Paul that we have discarded our reliance on all else and now rely solely on Him? It is a lofty but necessary goal for anyone who claims to have placed their faith in Jesus. But it isn’t automatic and it doesn’t happen overnight for the vast majority of believers. Learning to trust God, to obey Him, and not to question His directions requires that we become like Jesus, our ultimate example for living. But the only way to become like Jesus is to know Him, learn from Him, and walk with Him just as His early disciples did.
Which is why I have chosen, “Doing Life with Jesus” as our theme for 2022. How can we become like Him if we don’t even know Him? How can we understand what is important to Him if we don’t take time to be with Him? As believers our goal should not be to learn to mimic Jesus, it is to become like Him—in our thoughts, motivations and actions.
Today, I want to pose some questions as we reflect on where our faith lies.
“DOES GOD FLOW THROUGH YOU?”
Psalm 87 – “On the holy mountain
stands the city founded by the Lord.
2 He loves the city of Jerusalem
more than any other city in Israel.
3 O city of God,
what glorious things are said of you!
4 I will count Egypt and Babylon among those who know me--
also Philistia and Tyre, and even distant Ethiopia.
They have all become citizens of Jerusalem!
5 Regarding Jerusalem it will be said,
“Everyone enjoys the rights of citizenship there.”
And the Most High will personally bless this city.
6 When the Lord registers the nations, he will say,
“They have all become citizens of Jerusalem.”
7 The people will play flutes and sing,
“The source of my life springs from Jerusalem!”
This psalm is one of praise for a time that is coming when all believers, from all nations, will live together as citizens in God’s Kingdom. The terms ‘Jerusalem,’ ‘holy mountain’ and ‘city of God’ are being used synonymously to represent the future place where God will dwell with His people—all who have come to faith in Jesus. The people who have been counted as citizens of this glorious ‘Jerusalem’ sing of their source of life springing from this favoured city, this place that God has blessed with His presence. God Himself is the life-blood that springs up in those who have the privilege of being registered as citizens. He is the One responsible for the life they enjoy.
The psalmist was being given a glimpse of a time when God’s ‘chosen people’ would not simply refer to the Jewish nation, but would in fact include traditional enemies and those from faraway lands—people from Egypt, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia—all those who have become a part of God’s chosen people through a relationship with Jesus. The life that believers enjoy, the spiritual life-blood that is literally springing up in us, comes from our faith in Jesus, from God, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
However, as I look around the global Church today—both past and present—those who claim the name of Christian often bear little resemblance to the One they claim to follow. The spring of God in their lives looks more like a trickle…if it can be seen at all. And it begs the question, ‘Do I attempt to control the life of God in me?’ Have I given over everything in order that I might know my Master more fully, or do I delude myself into thinking I can retain control limiting Jesus to the position of ‘advisor only’ in my life? Do others see God in me or just my version of ‘good?’
Paul wrote to the Corinthians that, “Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. 12 Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. 13 If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).
Can we honestly say “YES!” to Paul’s list?
· I have a fearful responsibility
· I work hard to persuade others
· Christ’s love controls me
· I have died to my old life
· I no longer live for myself
· I live for Christ
· I am a new person / creation
· I have been given the task of reconciling people to God
· I am Christ’s ambassador
· God is making His appeal to others through me
· I speak for Christ when I say, ‘Come back to God!’
· I am made right with God through Christ.
Jesus told His disciples, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9). Is the same true of us? As people come to know us, do they see the One we serve? Do they see the One we say we ‘love’ with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength?
Which brings me to another question we must ask ourselves: “Do I love God, truly, as Jesus did, or am I quick to abandon Him in the face of troubles?” Too many of us who claim to love God really ought to evaluate what it is we love. Do we truly love God…or just His stuff / His rescue / His blessings?
I came across a thought-provoking post on Facebook (not where I typically go for my teaching material) that I wanted to share today.
“DO YOU LOVE GOD…OR JUST HIS STUFF?”
LOVER OR PROSTITUTE?
The Question that Changed My Life
by David Ryser
A number of years ago, I had the privilege of teaching at a school of ministry. My students were hungry for God, and I was constantly searching for ways to challenge them to fall more in love with Jesus and to become voices for revival in the Church. I came across a quote attributed most often to Rev. Sam Pascoe.
It is a short version of the history of Christianity, and it goes like this:
"️Christianity started in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it came to America and became an enterprise."
Some of the students were only 18 or 19 years old, and I wanted them to understand and appreciate the importance of the last line, so I clarified it by adding: "An enterprise. That's a business."
After a few moments, Martha, the youngest student in the class, raised her hand. I could not imagine what her question might be. I thought the little vignette was self-explanatory and that I had performed it brilliantly. Nevertheless, I acknowledged Martha's raised hand, "Yes, Martha."
She asked such a simple question: "A business? But isn't it supposed to be a body?"
I could not envision where this line of questioning was going, and the only response I could think of was "Yes."
She continued, "But when a body becomes a business, isn't that a prostitute?"
The room went dead silent. For several seconds no one moved or spoke. We were stunned, afraid to make a sound because the presence of God had flooded into the room, and we knew we were on Holy ground. God had taken over the class.
Martha's question changed my life. For six months, I thought about her question at least once every day. "When a body becomes a business, isn't that a prostitute?" There is only one answer to her question. The answer is "Yes." The [North] American Church, tragically, is heavily populated by people who do not love God. How can we love Him? We don't even know Him; and I mean REALLY know Him....
I stand by my statement that I believe that most [North] American Christians do not know God--much less love Him. The root of this condition originates in how we came to God. Most of us came to Him because of what we were told He would do for us. We were promised that He would bless us in life and take us to heaven after death. We married Him for His money, and we don't care if He lives or dies as long as we can get His stuff. We have made the Kingdom of God into a business, merchandising His anointing. This should not be.
We are commanded to love God and are called to be the Bride of Christ--that's pretty intimate stuff. We are supposed to be His lovers. How can we love someone we don't even know? And even if we do know someone, is that a guarantee that we truly love them? Are we lovers or prostitutes?
I was pondering Martha's question again one day and considered the question:
"What's the difference between a lover and a prostitute?" I realized that both do many of the same things, but a lover does what she does because she loves. A prostitute pretends to love, but only as long as you pay. Then I asked the question: "What would happen if God stopped paying me?" For the next several months, I allowed God to search me to uncover my motives for loving and serving Him. Was I really a true lover of God? What would happen if He stopped blessing me? What if He never did another thing for me? Would I still love Him?
Please understand, I believe in the promises and blessings of God. The issue here is not whether God blesses His children; the issue is the condition of my heart. Why do I serve Him? Are His blessings in my life the gifts of a loving Father, or are they a wage that I have earned or a bribe/payment to love Him? Do I love God without any conditions?
It took several months to work through these questions. Even now, I wonder if my desire to love God is always matched by my attitude and behavior. I still catch myself being disappointed with God and angry that He has not met some perceived need in my life. I suspect this is something which is never fully resolved, but I want more than anything else to be a true lover of God.
Do I truly love God…or just His stuff? Are we guilty of treating Him as our ‘sugar daddy,’ a doting grandfather or as our ‘fire / life insurance’ policy. What would happen to our faith if our circumstances took a downhill turn and never came back round? Would we still love Him?
Consider Jesus’ response to the cross. What took Jesus through to the fulfillment of His life’s purpose? It wasn’t His desire to die by crucifixion! Let’s read Matthew’s account of Jesus prior to His arrest
Matthew 26:36-39 – “36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Jesus loved God. He knew God’s plan for Him, the good that His life and death would accomplish…but only if He obeyed to the end. That didn’t, however, remove Jesus’ growing apprehension or agony that He knew were a part of God’s ‘good’ plan. The same could be said of us as well. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that, “We are God’s workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
We love the idea that God has a purpose for our lives and that He has ‘good work’ for us to do. But what if that ‘good work’ is not for our benefit, but to benefit others? Will your love of God keep you faithful if He should have you walk the difficult road of Job—suffering for no fault of your own; or Tamar—abandoned for the sins of another; or Joseph—betrayed by those he would one day save?
Would your love for God carry you through the difficulty in accomplishing His plans for your life to do His good work if it proved painful or of seemingly little benefit to you personally? Only devoted love for Him can. A love that is based on His ensured blessings-only will dissipate when troubles come, just as wind blows and shifts the clouds of the sky.
So how can we become more like Jesus…unwavering in our love of the Father and steadfast in our obedience? Paul provides us with some guidance in Colossians 2:6-7.
“GO DEEP, GROW STRONG”
Colossians 2:6-7 – “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
· If we accept Jesus, we must follow Him. We must adopt the life of a disciple learning from the Teacher—not just head knowledge, but a way of life.
· We must grow roots down deep into Him—roots that not only anchor us to our faith, but provide us with the spiritual nutrition to grow so that we become unshakeable.
· Our lives are to be built on Him—He is to be our foundation and driving force; we can stand tall even in the face of opposition because of who we stand up for.
· Then, because we are rooted and growing in God’s truth, our faith will grow strong and we will overflow with thankfulness. There should be no such thing as a sour Christian.
What will all this mean for you in 2022? How will it change how you live? Here’s some questions I want you to take away today…
· When people see me, do they see the God I serve?
· In what ways do I still need to become more like Jesus?
· Do I love God…or just what I can get from Him?
· How can I ‘do life with Jesus’ better this year than in the previous one?
Sunday, January 9, 2022 – 2022 Theme - “Doing Life with Jesus – Jesus’ Humiliation” (Philippians 2) – Online ONLY
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!