Daily Devotional–Tuesday, March 30, 2021
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15, NIV)
When we pray, do we praise? It is an essential part of the time we spend with God. Unfortunately, it is easy to develop the habit of reducing our prayers to a list of needs and wants. Asking God to work on our behalf or for others is very much a part of prayer, but it can’t make up the bulk of our conversations. How would your friend respond to you, if every time you rang them up or messaged them, it was for a favour? “Hi, _____. Can you help me with _____? And my friend could really use _____. Thanks”…end of conversation.
Our times of prayer must first acknowledge the wonderful privilege we have to be able to ask our Sovereign God for anything. The fact that he is even willing to hear our prayers is nothing short of a miracle. By his grace and never-ending love, we can talk with the Creator of the Universe as we would a loving parent. It is right and needful that we praise God; when we don’t, we risk taking this amazing privilege of being able to speak to God Almighty for granted. God wants to hear from us; he also wants us to hear from him. Reducing God to the function of a gold VISA card—by whipping him out only when we need something—puts us at risk of not being heard by him at all.
Today, when you pray, take a moment to remember to whom it is that you are speaking. Praise him! Repent of the ways you have mistreated your relationship and demeaned his awesomeness. Thank him for his generous work on your behalf. Present your needs and wants. And don’t forget to stop and listen before pronouncing the ‘Amen.’ God isn’t interested in a monologue. His desire is for regular dialogue with each of his children!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional–Monday, March 29, 2021
“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world.[a] He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:1-10, NLT)
“What’s in it for me?” is probably one of the most selfish and ungrateful questions to be uttered from the mouth of someone who has experienced God’s forgiveness and hope of heaven, yet rare is the Christian who has not on occasion asked the question. Even if the words don’t ever leave our mouths, how often have we resented being asked to help another, having our plans interrupted or having to go through difficult circumstances. When we consider all the blessings we receive as a Christ-follower, wholly undeserved, the question, “What’s in it for me?” betrays a Judas-like attitude. Let me explain.
Judas Iscariot, best known as the disciple who betrayed Jesus, was nevertheless a disciple chosen by the Messiah, a member of a small handpicked group to be mentored by the Son of God during his life on earth. Judas, like all the others, gave up many things to follow Jesus over the course of three years; we can assume that he grew in his knowledge of God as he listened to the teachings of Jesus; he witnessed incredible, unexplainable acts of God firsthand as Jesus performed miracles, even the raising of the dead; yet he never fully accepted Jesus as King on Jesus’ terms. In the back of his mind, it appears that Judas was perpetually asking the question, “What’s in it for me?”—calculating, scheming, setting his own desires above all else.
When Mary selflessly worshiped Jesus by anointing his feet with a perfume that cost a year’s wages, Judas veiled his resentment at not being given a chance to directly benefit from the gift by complaining that it should have been sold and the money given to the poor. If scholars are correct that Judas’ betrayal may have been an attempt to force Jesus’ hand to act out against the Romans, he was sorely mistaken. Jesus had not come for the reasons that most of the disciples believed—to immediately usher in an era of peace for the Jewish nation and to defeat Rome. His was a far greater purpose and Judas’ calculating attempt to force Jesus to fulfill his own plans for military conquest went unrealized.
We can be very hard on Judas, but I can’t help but wonder if we haven’t adopted his same attitude—looking for ways to personally benefit from our faith in Jesus, beyond the benefits already promised to us by God himself. If we’re serious about making Jesus our King, we need to work to erase that question from our minds and replace “What’s in it for me?” with “How can I share the blessings that are mine with others?” Rather than being selfish and ungrateful, we ought to be some of the most selfless and thankful people on the planet!
~ Pastor Jane
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, March 28, 2021
Palm Sunday – “The King is Here!”
Weekly Topic - “Accepting the King on His Terms”
Text – John 11-13
We are going to begin our discussion today with Jesus just having spent sometime with his good friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary. During the evening before, he had enjoyed their hospitality as they treated him to a meal prepared specially for him as their guest of honour.
Read John 12:12-19
“The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors 13 took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,
“Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hail to the King of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said: 15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming, riding on a donkey’s colt.”
16 His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.
17 Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. 18 That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. 19 Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”
The scene is truly incredible. This was no well-calibrated event of a royal visit that might occur these days with crowds lining the roadway held back by barriers, respectful cheers for the passing monarch and innumerable flags being waved. I remember in 2005, when Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Regina for the province’s centennial. What stuck out most to me was Shannan’s disappointment. Her class had made the short walk to the parliament buildings and had joined the gathered crowd. It was a rainy day—everyone got wet just to catch a glimpse of the queen as she drove past (relatively quickly) and waved. Our daughter, who had her hopes built up a little for the adventure was seriously underwhelmed. At six years old, she probably would have enjoyed the experience more watching it on television from the comfort of our home.
But what happened in Jerusalem that day when Jesus rode in on a donkey was an entirely different affair. The crowds gathered, intermingling, even choking the roadway, cheering to a degree that it raised the attention of all those in Jerusalem and drew a rebuke from the Pharisees, stripping palm branches to wave or to lay in the road, laying coats on the ground for the donkey to walk over, close enough to not only see Jesus, but reach out and touch him. It is clear that the crowds had come out to meet the long-awaited Messiah; so why was it that in a week’s time, many of these same cheering people became a maddened jeering crowd intent, not on crowning a king, but crucifying a criminal?
The King had arrived…but he didn’t live up to their expectations. While many wanted to be rescued, the vast majority refused the terms of his Lordship.
What does it mean for us to have Jesus as “Lord?” Is he really in charge? The literal ‘boss’ of our lives? If so, I want to ask a question for all of us to contemplate…how many of us spent any time in the past 24 hours asking him for his next orders? Or like the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians are we more likely to determine our own plans and ask him to place his royal stamp of approval of them? Just a thought as we begin this morning….
At the beginning of John 11, previous to the dinner with Jesus as the guest of honour, we read how he miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead. And this was no case of mistaken diagnosis…everyone knew Lazarus had been dead for four days when Jesus called him out of the tomb. And word had begun to spread. This is where I want us to pick up the story this morning in our quest to understand the terms by which we need to accept Jesus as King.
THE PHARISEES REJECTED – John 11:45-50; 12:10-11
“Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. 46 But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. ‘What are we going to do?’ they asked each other. ‘This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. 48 If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.’
49 Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about! 50 You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed’…
Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, 11 for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.”
What stands out to you about the Pharisees response?
They acknowledged Jesus’ miracles, but not the source. They could not bring themselves to the point of recognizing the works that he did as being from God, because Jesus did not fit their expectations of the Messiah. He had no pedigree, no riches. Where was the proof of his Davidic lineage, his army or even his warhorse? He was nothing more than a carpenter, from the backwater town of Nazareth who had an uncanny ability of bedazzling the uneducated masses. Sure, he did miracles. But rather than looking more deeply into their validity, these learned men of God wrote them off and then worked to erase the evidence. They decided that it was in the best interest of everyone to not only dispose of Jesus, but Lazarus as well. “He raised a man from the dead? What man? Prove it!” They had lost control and saw discreditation of Jesus and his miracles as a means of regaining it.
They were concerned, too, about what might happen if the authorities got wind of this new king. The murderous Herodian family and Caesar, ever bent on conquest, would not have tolerated the news of a new king in town. History had not been kind to the Jewish nation when it had chosen to revolt against its Gentile overlords. The Pharisees, who enjoyed a certain amount of privilege despite their conquered status, refused to incur the wrath of Rome. Their fear of what Rome might do was greater than their trust in God. They did not want to risk losing what they had and, so, wouldn’t it be better to see this miracle worker removed than allow the people to get stirred up to the point that Rome would choose to act? As Caiaphas prophesied, it would be far better that one man die for the people, than to see the nation forced to surrender yet again following a failed revolt.
On a much baser level, much of the Pharisees’ motivation stemmed from jealousy and selfishness. They resented Jesus’ popularity and the way he seemed to be able to perpetually make them look bad. His new teachings and appeal to the masses jeopardized their way of life…and they adamantly refused to relinquish their beliefs, position, prestige and livelihoods. The crowds would soon grow tired of this would-be Messiah, if they could just erase him from the picture.
SOME DESIRED RESCUE & REVENGE –
John 12:34 “34 The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?”
The Israelite people had grown up under the teaching of the Pharisees that portrayed the coming Messiah as the rescuer from human oppression. He would be responsible for single handedly ushering in a new rule of eternal peace by conquering all the oppressors of the Jewish nation. What Jesus taught stood in stark contrast to the teachings of the religious leaders. Understandably they were left confused and needing to choose between different interpretations of the words of the prophets. They desperately wanted rescued from the Romans and to see some justice served; but Jesus taught something that would have sounded incredibly foreign. As a result, most rejected him just as readily as the Pharisees had.
And then there were Jesus’ own disciples who didn’t understand what it meant to follow him as King or the kind of kingdom he was ushering in…
John 13:4-10, 15-17 “So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’
7 Jesus replied, ‘You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.’
8 ‘No,’ Peter protested, ‘you will never ever wash my feet!’
Jesus replied, ‘Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.’
9 Simon Peter exclaimed, ‘Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!’
10 Jesus replied, ‘A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.’ 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, ‘Not all of you are clean’…
‘I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.’”
Those who believed Jesus was the Messiah, still struggled to understand his terms as their King. Jesus completely rejected their expectations when he assumed the position of a low household slave. While they had argued about which of them was greatest (Luke 22:24-27), Jesus told them he expected humility; while they jostled for positions of influence, Jesus encouraged them to take the role of a servant. No one who accepts Jesus as King on his terms, can do so with the expectation of gaining positions of superiority.
And then there was Judas…
John 12:4-6, 13:27-30 “But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, 5 ‘That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.’ 6 Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself…”; “When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” 28 None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. 29 Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. 30 So Judas left at once, going out into the night.”
There is some thought that Judas’ betrayal was actually his attempt to force Jesus’ hand against the Romans. He may have reasoned, ‘Surely, if he was arrested, he would act?’ We don’t know much about Judas beyond his role of betrayer; but we do know that, even though he was one of the specially chosen twelve to accompany Jesus for three years of in-depth mentoring, Judas had some less than savoury habits. None of the disciples were perfect, but one of the things we know about Judas was that he was a thief. As the keeper of the group’s money bag, he had easy access to their shared resources and was known to help himself often. It certainly seems that he was always calculating, asking the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’
The Bible does tell us that after being used by Satan to betray Jesus to the religious leaders, “Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:3-5).
Had Judas thought to force Jesus into achieving what he had determined was the most needful outcome? When he discovers that Jesus has been condemned—there has been no dramatic turn of events, no heavenly blast of angelical horns, no righting of religious and Roman wrongs—he is immediately remorseful and tries to make amends, but it is too late.
I believe Judas learned, too late, that Jesus as our King, cannot be presumed upon or dictated to. I wonder, however, if some of us don’t play the part of Judas—not in our betrayal, but in our presumption. If Jesus is our King, he is to be in charge—ours is to follow and serve at his bidding…never the other way around. But in the 21st century Church I believe we have needed a wake-up call. How often do our prayers turn petulant and demanding as we remind God of his promises? Or does our obedience demand recognition? Or our service, reward? It ought not to! We need to learn from the example of those who believed and worshiped Jesus even prior to the events of Easter…
SOME BELIEVED & WORSHIPED – John 12:1-3,7-8; 12:42-43
“Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. 2 A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. 3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance…
7 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
“Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. 43 For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.”
Mary, who had witnessed her brother raised from the dead, was already convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, her King, and no act of devotion bore too great a cost. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for all who had come to believe in Jesus. While some like Mary held back nothing in their service of their King, many believed in secret. They kept their faith private—they feared for their reputations with the Pharisees and their freedom to worship at the synagogue. Theirs was a faith limited in expression because of fear, ‘they loved human praise more than the praise of God.’
Their faith may have been imperfect, but they were on the right track. However, our faith, though potentially quiet at first, cannot remain there, hidden in the dark for fear of others. Jesus, as our King, has commanded us to go disciple, teach and baptize…the nations—all those without a knowledge of him.
I wonder, if we were to do a straw poll of those who profess a belief in Jesus (while in the presence of other Christians), how many of those polled could provide evidence for a faith and level of devotion like Mary’s and how many of us are much more inclined to keep our beliefs close to our chest when interacting with others who do not believe the same.
For many of us, Jesus’ words are a strong rebuke to this kind of secretive belief, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
MY STORY – Jesus must be King, not just Saviour…
My spiritual journey begins with that of my mother=s. At the age of 25, my mom, who had already been married for eight years and had four children, became discontented with her life. Up until that point, God had been a relatively unknown entity for her; she had attended Sunday school for a short time with her grandparents at a United Church as a child, but didn=t again step foot into a church except for the occasional wedding. My father had been raised in a Christian Reform church until the age of 14 at which point he completely turned his back and walked away from the church, God and the legalism he had come to view both as. For the four of us children, God was a complete unknown.
It=s with this background that my mother took herself and four children to church in hopes of finding the thing that appeared to be missing from her life, but which she had not yet identified. So, at the age of eight, I had my first introduction to church and within the year my mother and each of us children professed a relationship with Jesus. My father continued his resistance for a couple more years before also making a decision to follow Christ.
And so began my journey; unfortunately, my spiritual growth was lopsided. As a child I learned the Bible stories eagerly and excelled at memorizing passages of Scripture and Bible trivia. At the age of 12, I was baptized. I got involved in Christian serviceChelping out with the children=s midweek ministry, leading the youth group and volunteering many years as a camp counselor. Despite all this activity it took another 10 years before I recognized that Christ was not merely to be the Saviour of my life, He was to be my Master and, more astonishingly, Friend. I did not comprehend that God was far more concerned with my beingCwho I am and am becomingCthan with my actions. My busyness and knowledge of God prevented me from recognizing the immaturity of my heart and the stunted relationship I had with my Lord.
Complicating matters, my teenage years at home were tumultuous. I have learned in my life that authoritarian parenting and strong-willed children are often a recipe for conflict. Our experience of growing up together as a relatively young Christian family included many lessons learned by trial and error and sometimes we didn=t do very well in our relationships with one another.
By the age of 17, I was on my own, living in the big city, taking care of myself. My departure from home had been bittersweet. I was now free to live my life my way, but I was filled with anger, bitterness and a cynicism that hung over me like a black cloud. I still went to church every Sunday, got involved, continued to do all the Aright things@; but, one big thing was missing. Subconsciously I had determined that I was the only person I could trust, the only person who wouldn=t let me down; however, in the process of pushing people to a safe arm=s length away I did the same with God. I wasn’t prepared to give up on Jesus as Saviour, but I had no intention of making him King.
At the age of 19, God brought me to a place in my life where I was forced to choose between humbly submitting to Him and allowing God to take over the controls OR reject Him completely. Either way I had to quit playing the hypocriteCoutwardly faithful, while inwardly distrusting and distant. My life was quite literally turned upside down. My self-reliant little world crumbled before my very eyes through the events of a head-on car accident. While in hospital recovering, I demanded an answer from God. Why did He do this? What on earth was I supposed to do now? And God responded in His absolute grace by answering me, by allowing me to literally hear Him say, ABible College.@ In disbelief, I challenged Him to make it happen. It wasn=t that I didn=t want to go, but I didn=t see anyway it was going to happenY and so believing it impossible, dared God to get me to Bible College.
God used the next 6 months to rebuild my capacity to trust. He healed not only my broken bones, but also my broken spirit. He proved Himself faithful, even in the face of my doubt, that He could and would provide beyond anything I could ask or imagine. In the fall of that same year, I found myself enrolled for the next 4 years at Emmanuel Bible College. I have never looked back!
Much has happened in my life since that time, and there have still been times that I have needed reminders that, despite life’s circumstances, he loves me; but I have never again doubted his Lordship and continue to learn to trust him implicitly. In my faith journey, I continue to praise God for His faithfulness, His abundant grace, and the privilege I have of serving Him not only with my strength and mind, but now also with my heart. Proverbs 3:5+6 are key verses for my life: ATrust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.@
There is no question, Jesus is King. The question is whether or not we will accept him on his terms
· Do we reject him like the Pharisees, even to the point of trying to get rid of evidence?
· Are we like the amazed, but unbelieving crowd, content not to question what we learned as a child or what we think we know?
· Are we like Peter, who professed that Jesus was the Messiah, but still didn’t recognize the kind of King that Jesus was—wholly God, all powerful, eternal…and servant? And still needed to learn how to follow his King’s example without questioning.
· Do we have the attitude of Judas, ‘What’s in it or me?’
· Are we fearful of others’ opinions and therefore negligent in our duties to share the good news about Jesus?
· Or have we been too comfortable with the idea of Jesus as ‘Saviour’ and haven’t moved deeper into our understanding of his Lordship over our lives to recognize him as ‘Master?’
· Or, like Mary, have we fully recognized his Lordship and count no cost too high in our worship of him?
· If Jesus is our King, we need to take our directions from him. We are obligated to give him Lordship over the whole of our earthly lives, so that we can enjoy eternity with him.
Many years ago, Jesus rode into Jerusalem, but many were unprepared for his arrival. The final question for us today, is whether or not we are ready for the King to return?
Friday, April 2, 2021 @7pm – “Good Friday Service” – Reflection & Communion
Sunday, April 4, 2021- “Easter – Unbelievably Good News!” - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional–Thursday,March 25,2021
“There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.” (Hebrews 5:11-6:3, NLT)
Can’t you hear the exasperation in the writer’s voice? Much like a parent scolding a child who has attained an age to understand what is right or wrong, yet continues to revert back to behaviours more appropriate to that of a younger child, the writer of Hebrews is frustrated. S/he* bemoans the inability to teach the letter’s recipients greater knowledge of the faith because, despite their many years as believers, they still haven’t fully accepted the basics. The scolding continues; after so much time they should be teaching, not needing to be taught the fundamentals over and over. In neglecting to study to understand, they have become satisfied with living the life of fat babies.
But they are no longer babies! Babies grow up and mature. The sight of a baby nursing at its mother’s breast or drinking from a bottle is an endearing sight. But, what would you think if you met a perfectly healthy eight year old who still ate exclusively from a bottle and needed regular diaper changes? You’d think something was wrong. I get the sense that the writer of Hebrews is equally frustrated, perplexed, maybe even a little repulsed by the fact that these aged Christians are quite content to wear the diaper and drink the bottle of a new believer.
Just as we mature physically and intellectually, those of us who have made a commitment to Christ should be maturing spiritually. The evidence of our growth comes in our ability to determine right from wrong, unwavering loyalty to God and a determination to live for him. It is, in fact, each of our responsibility to become teachers. We do not all have the Holy Spirit’s gift of teaching, but we are called to teach, just as we may not all have the gift of discernment, but we all must exercise good judgment or just because we do not have the gift of evangelism, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be readily sharing about our faith. The things that you have come to understand about God and his Word are now yours to share, not hoard.
It’s time for a spiritual check-up. Are we growing up spiritually healthy? Or have we become petulant demanding babies who want only the milk of new believers and the occasional pablum? Are we teaching others the truths we have discovered or are we still stuck on whether to believe the basics of the Christian faith? Is our loyalty to God being demonstrated through consistent good deeds or are we content to play in the jolly jumper while others do the work of Jesus’ final commission—go disciple, teach and baptize? It may be time for some of us to get serious about doing a little growing up.
*The mixed pronoun ‘s/he’ is used as the writer of the letter of Hebrews is unknown. Various plausible authors have been suggested by scholars, including Barnabas, Apollos and/or Priscilla, though no one knows for certain.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional–March 24, 2021
“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4, NLT)
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over this year, it’s that nothing is ever accomplished without a level of risk. When we let worry over potential problems control our decision-making, we will inevitably become frozen in place—isolating, filled with anxiety, perpetually too scared to step out of our comfort zone because of things that ‘might’ happen. At the same time, to deny that there is any risk at all and to live with utter abandon, even in the face of danger, crosses a line and leaves us making foolhardy decisions and judging other’s cautiousness as lacking faith.
There is definitely a balance to be obtained—the ability to assess reasonable risk. Attempts to safeguard anything perfectly leave us immobile, just like Solomon’s farmer looking for perfect weather in order to begin planting or harvesting. The problem is that this seeking after the ideal conditions that rarely present themselves may safeguard us in the moment but will most assuredly result in nothing good and needful getting done as well. If we had the ability to predict the future and to be able to assess all the variables, we might have cause for exercising greater degrees of caution at times, but we don’t. Solomon also encourages us to live with a higher degree of tolerance for risk when he writes, “No one really knows what is going to happen; no one can predict the future” (Ecclesiastes 10:14).
So, with those wise words of Solomon’s, let me encourage each of us not to refrain from doing the good that God wants us to just because it might put us in harm’s way. Life is full of risk even without a pandemic to deal with. It is important to remember that God’s in control, He has already determined the number of our days on earth, and the hope of eternity in heaven is assured for all who put their faith in Him. We are not called to take foolish risks, but neither can we let worry over risk immobilize us. Even during this time of restrictions, we are still called to do good, but how that looks for each one of us will differ. May you find ways to show God’s love to others today…with reasonable risk!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional – March 23, 2021
“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.” (Luke 6:31-34, MSG)
We live in an age when people have become suspect of kindness. When someone acts with generosity, the first thing on other people’s minds is, “What’s the catch?” Demonstrating kindness for the sake of kindness is a lost art. But the fact of the matter is that kindness for any other reason is not really kindness at all; people have become automatically suspicious of kindness because they have experienced too many counterfeits. So, what is the determining factor? What designates a generous act as kindness or not? Motivation! Any expectation of reciprocity, of any kind, undermines our acts of kindness, reducing them to manipulative tactics.
For those who claim a relationship with God, kindness is one of the character traits that the Holy Spirit grows in us as His fruit. It is not dependent on personal cost, how it will be received or if we will ever see kindness returned to us. It is to be who we are not simply how we act on occasion when it suits us. I wonder how our kind acts would be received then? Generosity with no strings attached. Compassion with no expectation of reciprocity. Kindness with a catch.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional–Monday, March 22, 2021
“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Hebrews 12:11)
There has been a lot of talk in the global Church of God doing something new on a global scale as we adjust to the changes that have been brought about over the past year. And I really do believe that God wants to do something new. Yet, for all our talk, we resist the change that is required in order to do the ‘new’ thing that God is leading us toward because correction is often a necessary part of it. We love the idea of a spiritual bumper crop to come, but we can spend an awful lot of complaining, and in wishful thinking for the things that were, during the season of preparation. Season of preparation? Yes. Every farmer knows you cannot reap a crop of wheat, barley, canola or other various grains in the late summer or fall, unless you put the necessary work into preparing the fields beforehand. There’s a definite parallel to how I think God is preparing His Church during these days.
We love the idea of ‘fall’—harvest time—but it is during the days of spring that critical work must be done so that there is a harvest at all. In my younger days on the farm, as soon as the fields were dry enough not to get the tractor stuck, my dad would begin ploughing the fields. As the plow bit into the earth, it would literally flip the soil of the field upside down. The result was big ruts of evenly spaced rows—a disturbed landscape, made difficult to walk through. But a ploughed field, though in the process of being prepared to receive the seed that will develop into a harvest later in the year, is not ready to be seeded. The large chunks of uneven sod require further refining.
So, sometime later, my father or I would go out over these same fields and would now hitch the cultivator to the tractor. The cultivator broke up the rows and redistributed the earth more smoothly. But again the field was not always entirely ready for the sowing of seed. At times, members of my family would be required to go ‘rock picking’ so as to further remove potentially harmful obstructions from the field being prepared. The field now ready, would be seeded, but the work was far from done. After the seed was spread, before the days of hydraulic seeders, a set of harrows was pulled over the fields to ensure that the seed was properly mixed in with the soil and was not simply left lying on top within easy reach of birds or to be blown away by the wind.
During this past year, we have experienced the process of ploughing, as God has allowed everything we have known to get ‘flipped.’ He has begun preparing His Church as a farmer prepares a field. There are some who simply want to see the flipping of the rows reversed, but God has only just begun. He wants to further refine us so that we produce a harvest of ‘right living.’ Before 2020, the Church in many respects had settled into serving as a pasture—which requires little maintenance and allows the cows to graze at their leisure. But God does not want us to be an unproductive pasture, but rather a field of golden grain able to feed hungry crowds from our bumper crop of love, compassion, grace and joy produced in us by our heavenly Father. But that requires preparation. Will you allow Him to continue the work in you?
~ Pastor Jane
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, March 21, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Can’t Run Away from Your Problems”
Text – Genesis 28-33
We left Jacob last week heading off to his uncle Laban’s in Haran with Isaac’s blessing to find a wife from amongst his cousins, a deployment orchestrated by Rebekah to save Jacob from Esau’s revenge for having been cheated of his father’s blessing. The maneuver may very well have saved his life, but it did not come without its consequences. Jacob must now travel to Haran leaving not only his revenge-seeking brother, but also his mother and father and everything he has ever known up to this point in his seventy years of life.
This week, I was struck by the fact, that though we find Jacob running away at this point in the story, twenty years from now he will still need to ‘face the music’ so to speak, as he comes face to face with his brother. How like all of us at times. Haven’t we all wanted to run away from our problems? Conceal mistakes we’ve made? But Jacob’s story reminds us that there really is no true running away. Consequences follow us in the form of guilty conscience, regret and even in the repetition of the same mistakes.
In Jacob’s story we find God ‘popping in’ at times—revealing Himself through dreams, providing guidance and blessing, even appearing as a man for a night-time wrestling match; but in much of Jacob’s story, God’s engagement is buried under the surface as the characters of the story scheme and compete in their attempts to come out ahead. However, I believe God was working out three aims unbeknownst to the human players in the life of Jacob—knowledge of God, development of character and the need for restoration and restitution made possible only through humility.
As we go through our lesson this morning, I would encourage you to think of a situation in your own life that may hold some similarities. Is there an event in your past that you have run away from or buried, but that continues to have a hold over you in the form of a guilty conscience, regret or where there is still a balance owing in the way of restitution and /or restoration? God absolutely forgives us when we ask him to, but that does not negate the consequences in human relationships. As you think about that, let’s begin…
GOD’S AIMS—KNOWLEDGE OF HIM – Genesis 28:10-22
“Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. 11 At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. 12 As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
13 At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. 14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 15 What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.’
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!’ 17 But he was also afraid and said, ‘What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!’
18 The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. 19 He named that place Bethel (which means ‘house of God’), although it was previously called Luz.
20 Then Jacob made this vow: ‘If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. 22 And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.’”
We often assume that the people of the Bible were Christians or Christian-like…that’s a mistake.
We live in an incredibly privileged point of history. Living on this side of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, we have been granted a much fuller manifestation and understanding of God and his purposes in this world. Not so in the time of the patriarchs, which may be why God appeared to them far more frequently it seems that he does to us. Whereas we have the Bible, theirs were the stories that would direct the narrative we have such easy access to. Nothing would be written down until the time of Moses, a number of centuries after Jacob lived. Sure, they may have had some oral stories passed down through families, but it is unlikely that those revealed very much of the actual person of God or of the notion of having a relationship with the One who had the power to create and/or destroy.
In this night-time dream, we see how little Jacob knows of God. He believes he has stumbled onto the doorstep to God’s house. And he is terrified at the prospect of having trespassed inadvertently onto God’s domain. He sets up a memorial stone, makes an offering of olive oil and promises to give God a tenth of all he acquires, should God keep his word in the dream to prosper him and bring him back. In essence, he is making a business transaction with God…‘help me and I’ll give you a commission.’
Have you ever found yourself making deals like that with God? You’re in trouble, but if God will help you out of this jam, you’ll do something in return…like serve Him better, read his word more faithfully, try to be a better person, give up a particular habit. Bargaining with God, however, shows up the immaturity of our faith. Sometimes he will honour our request despite our manipulation, but placing conditions like these on our relationship with God, as though we can coerce a desired response from him, demonstrates a weak faith and lack of understanding of God entirely.
As we read about Jacob’s life and those of his family, their partial understanding of God is also revealed through their worship of false gods and their superstitious beliefs. We read how Jacob believes he can influence the look of the sheep and goats born by placing strips of bark in their drinking troughs (Genesis 30:37-40). And when God calls Jacob to return to Canaan, one of his wives can’t part from her family’s household gods and ends up stealing them from her father, Laban, and bringing them with her (Genesis 31:30-35).
Speaking of Laban, let’s move onto our next scripture reading.
GOD’S AIMS—DEVELOPMENT OF CHARACTER – Genesis 29:13-30
“3 As soon as Laban heard that his nephew Jacob had arrived, he ran out to meet him. He embraced and kissed him and brought him home. When Jacob had told him his story, 14 Laban exclaimed, “You really are my own flesh and blood!”
After Jacob had stayed with Laban for about a month, 15 Laban said to him, ‘You shouldn’t work for me without pay just because we are relatives. Tell me how much your wages should be.’
16 Now Laban had two daughters. The older daughter was named Leah, and the younger one was Rachel. 17 There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face. 18 Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, ‘I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.’
19 ‘Agreed!’ Laban replied. ‘I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.’ 20 So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.
21 Finally, the time came for him to marry her. ‘I have fulfilled my agreement,’ Jacob said to Laban. ‘Now give me my wife so I can sleep with her.’
22 So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast. 23 But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her. 24 (Laban had given Leah a servant, Zilpah, to be her maid.)
25 But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! ‘What have you done to me?’ Jacob raged at Laban. ‘I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?’
26 ‘It’s not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,’ Laban replied. 27 ‘But wait until the bridal week is over; then we’ll give you Rachel, too—provided you promise to work another seven years for me.’
28 So Jacob agreed to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too. 29 (Laban gave Rachel a servant, Bilhah, to be her maid.) 30 So Jacob slept with Rachel, too, and he loved her much more than Leah. He then stayed and worked for Laban the additional seven years.”
One of God’s aims in Jacob’s life was to further develop his character and his uncle Laban acted like a mirror for Jacob. It appears that conniving and manipulation were family traits on his mother’s side, including his uncle Laban. Jacob had left home to get away from trouble, but in some ways ended up jumping out of the pan and into the fire. Early in their acquaintance they strike a deal. Jacob will work seven years for Laban in lieu of a dowery for the hand of his beautiful cousin, Rachel. He works hard and this man who ‘was content to stay at home among the tents’ (Genesis 25:27), finds himself working hard outside contending with the elements and wild animals as he tended to his uncle’s flocks of sheep and goats.
I suspect that as the time of the seven years was nearing completion, Laban sought a way to keep Jacob in his indentured servitude. This would explain the switching of the brides on the night of the wedding. When Jacob complains, Laban explains that it is not their practice to have a younger daughter married ahead of an older one, but I think that was just his excuse to keep Jacob working for him longer. He tells Jacob that everything can be easily sorted out. He is to spend the wedding week with Leah and at the end of it, he can have Rachel too…in exchange for another seven years of work. The deceiver becomes the deceived.
Jacob agrees, somewhat reluctantly to this arrangement I’m sure, and marries Rachel in addition to Leah…and sets himself up for a lifetime of family strife. The sisters, every bit as rivals as Esau and Jacob had been, give him a bit of a taste of how he had treated his own father—as a means to an end. He had deceived his own father in his bid to gain the upper hand over his brother by stealing the blessing and now found himself treated as the means to an end in a contest between his sister-wives.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with their story, let me read Genesis 29:31-30:24 for you.
“31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he enabled her to have children, but Rachel could not conceive. 32 So Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, ‘The Lord has noticed my misery, and now my husband will love me.’ 33 She soon became pregnant again and gave birth to another son. She named him Simeon, for she said, ‘The Lord heard that I was unloved and has given me another son.’ 34 Then she became pregnant a third time and gave birth to another son. He was named Levi, for she said, ‘Surely this time my husband will feel affection for me, since I have given him three sons!’ 35 Once again Leah became pregnant and gave birth to another son. She named him Judah, for she said, ‘Now I will praise the Lord!’ And then she stopped having children.
30 When Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She pleaded with Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’
2 Then Jacob became furious with Rachel. ‘Am I God?’ he asked. ‘He’s the one who has kept you from having children!’ 3 Then Rachel told him, ‘Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me, and through her I can have a family, too.’ 4 So Rachel gave her servant, Bilhah, to Jacob as a wife, and he slept with her. 5 Bilhah became pregnant and presented him with a son. 6 Rachel named him Dan, for she said, ‘God has vindicated me! He has heard my request and given me a son.’ 7 Then Bilhah became pregnant again and gave Jacob a second son. 8 Rachel named him Naphtali, for she said, ‘I have struggled hard with my sister, and I’m winning!’
9 Meanwhile, Leah realized that she wasn’t getting pregnant anymore, so she took her servant, Zilpah, and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Soon Zilpah presented him with a son. 11 Leah named him Gad, for she said, ‘How fortunate I am!’ 12 Then Zilpah gave Jacob a second son. 13 And Leah named him Asher, for she said, ‘What joy is mine! Now the other women will celebrate with me.’
14 One day during the wheat harvest, Reuben found some mandrakes growing in a field and brought them to his mother, Leah. Rachel begged Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’ 15 But Leah angrily replied, ‘Wasn’t it enough that you stole my husband? Now will you steal my son’s mandrakes, too?’ Rachel answered, ‘I will let Jacob sleep with you tonight if you give me some of the mandrakes.’
16 So that evening, as Jacob was coming home from the fields, Leah went out to meet him. “You must come and sleep with me tonight!” she said. ‘I have paid for you with some mandrakes that my son found.’ So that night he slept with Leah. 17 And God answered Leah’s prayers. She became pregnant again and gave birth to a fifth son for Jacob. 18 She named him Issachar, for she said, ‘God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband as a wife.’ 19 Then Leah became pregnant again and gave birth to a sixth son for Jacob. 20 She named him Zebulun, for she said, ‘God has given me a good reward. Now my husband will treat me with respect, for I have given him six sons.’ 21 Later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.
22 Then God remembered Rachel’s plight and answered her prayers by enabling her to have children. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. ‘God has removed my disgrace,’ she said. 24 And she named him Joseph, for she said, ‘May the Lord add yet another son to my family.’”
As you listened to this portion of the story, what did you notice?
In the battle for status between Rachel and Leah—a contest to be won by having the most sons for their family—Jacob is treated as a ‘stud for hire.’ We know that he loved Rachel, but did his wives love him back? Leah had given up trying to earn his affection and, in her rejection, contented herself with the possibility that he would at least have respect for her as the mother of six sons.
It’s a messed up story for sure! And the familial favouritism that was responsible for wrecking his own upbringing—with Isaac and Rebekah dividing their sons through favouritism—now divided his own family, as he showed overt favouritism to Rachel and her sons, over the others. History has a way of repeating itself when we attempt to run away from problems rather than address them.
Which brings us to God’s third aim…
After twenty years of serving his uncle Laban—14 years for his two wives and 6 years in order to build up his own flocks—God tells Jacob to return to the land of his upbringing, which will now bring him face to face with the unfinished business of his past—Esau.
GOD’S AIMS—RESTORATION and/or RESTITUTION – Genesis 33:1-11
“Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and his two servant wives. 2 He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him. 4 Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept. 5 Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, ‘Who are these people with you?’
‘These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,’ Jacob replied. 6 Then the servant wives came forward with their children and bowed before him. 7 Next came Leah with her children, and they bowed before him. Finally, Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed before him.
8 ‘And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?’ Esau asked. Jacob replied, ‘They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship.’ 9 ‘My brother, I have plenty,’ Esau answered. ‘Keep what you have for yourself.’ 10 But Jacob insisted, ‘No, if I have found favor with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God! 11 Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.’ And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift.”
We don’t know what was going on in Esau’s mind when he heard the news that Jacob was returning, but the fact that he gathered an army of 400 men to meet Jacob on the way, strongly implies he was not intending on the kind of reunion that took place. Finally, here was a chance to get even! Strike the blow before Jacob had a chance to reach Isaac and Esau’s revenge would be complete without his father being any more the wiser. The liar had finally returned to assume his position as the birthright holder and Esau now saw his chance. But something took place that changed his mind.
Jacob set about making amends immediately before they met, sending gifts of 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys, all with a carefully crafted greeting, “When my brother, Esau, meets you, he will ask, ‘Whose servants are you? Where are you going? Who owns these animals?’ 18 You must reply, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob, but they are a gift for his master Esau. Look, he is coming right behind us’” (Genesis 32:17-18).
Esau’s plan for revenge twenty years earlier had been to kill Jacob after their father, Isaac, passed away. However, upon seeing one another, with Jacob bowing in abject humility, Esau runs to embrace him. His act of unbegrudging restitution has demonstrated for Esau that his brother, whatever he may have been or done, has changed. And because of the restitution that Jacob made to his brother and the resulting restoration of their relationship, we read that both brothers were there to bury their father when he dies at the age of 180 years (Genesis 35:29), now being 120 years old themselves. I don’t know how close they ever were as brothers, but I suspect that in their final years they enjoyed a much healthier relationship than they had had in their first 90 years. It really is never too late to make amends!
Is there a situation from which you’ve been running away or someone to whom you need to make amends? When we are wronged Jesus calls tells us to forgive—whether the individual in the wrong ever chooses to make amends or not; however, if we’re the one who has perpetuated the wrong, it is on us to make restitution. We cannot change another’s heart, but tangible demonstrations of humility can go a long way. It’s what made the difference for Esau and Jacob, and can for us as well.
God’s aims for Jacob as seen in this episode of his life, are the same that he has for each one of us…
· A growing understanding of who he is, and a relationship that is based on faith and trust.
· Ever-increasing development in our character – God does not wipe away consequences just because he forgives us; if he did, it is unlikely that we would learn the lessons we need to help us mature in our walk of obedience to Him.
· The people in our lives are at times God’s refining tools—those we appreciate and especially those we struggle to.
· God’s forgiveness does not eliminate our need to work to bring about restitution and restoration of our relationships as God makes possible; restoring trust between people is a work of forgiveness, humility, timing and God’s mercy.
For further study:
Sunday, March 28, 2021- “Palm Sunday – The King is Here!” - Communion and Sharing - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional – March18, 2021
“The LORD told Gideon, ‘With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.’” (Judges 7:7)
During the pandemic things have changed for the Church—much of our ministry has gone online, many congregations have shrunk in size or even closed their doors forever and resources have also seen a reduction. The ‘shrinking’ does not concern me nearly as much as the apparent loss of commitment. The story of Gideon reminds me that God does not need big numbers to accomplish big tasks.
We find the story of Gideon in the book of Judges. The Israelites had turned their back on God and once again found themselves suffering oppression by an invading people. God allowed the Midianites to cause problems for the Israelites, whose influence was much like that of a perpetual locust swarm. For seven year, this group of people made it really hard for the Israelites because they stole all their food and even trampled the food growing in the fields. The Israelites were starving and they pleaded with God to help them. God chose Gideon to lead the people, but He wanted to make certain that the people understood that it was God who would provide the rescue not a new judge.
God told Gideon that He wanted him to attack the Midianites and drive them away. Gideon gathered 32,000 men, which was a pretty small group compared to the Midianite army. They had only one man for every four Midianites—the odds were definitely stacked against them—but God told Gideon he had too many men. So, as instructed, Gideon told all the men who were frightened that they could go home—22,000 took up his offer and left, leaving Gideon with an army of only 10,000. But again, God told Gideon he still had too many men. So next, Gideon divided the men as God instructed him. As they drank from a river, Gideon was to send everyone home who bent down and drank water directly from the river. He was only to keep the men who scooped up the water in their hands to drink—this left Gideon with only 300 men. If they won this battle against the Midianites, it would have to be a miracle from God!
And what exactly were these 300 men to do? Divide into three groups around the Midianites, blow horns, break jars and shout. Like the instructions given to Joshua to march around the walls of Jericho, there is no logical way to understand this as a winning strategy. But the men obey Gideon’s instruction and then watch as God throws the entire Midianite army into chaos so that they end up killing one another. One man to every 426 of the enemy are impossible odds, but those kinds of numbers mean nothing to a miracle-working God when He has a committed group to work with and through. The same is true today, which is why small numbers don’t worry me. On the other hand, we still require commitment to God’s purposes or risk all we hold dear if the faithfulness of the faithful proves tepid at best.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotionals March 15, 2021
“So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. 2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” (1 Peter 2:1-3)
How often do we associate having a ‘craving’ with being a Christian? Not usually. But maybe we should. Think about it this way…we often speak of ‘wanting’ or ‘desiring’ more of God, but the image that come to my mind is of a woman patiently waiting in prayer with a Bible open on her lap. The image Peter paints is far different! In a baby’s craving for milk we find nothing of my tranquil picture at rest. Rather we are faced with a red-faced infant who demands to be fed—a hungry newborn knows nothing of patience. It is with that kind of urgency that Peter tells us to ‘crave’ spiritual nourishment.
As followers of Christ, we are to get rid of our appetite for all things that do not line up with our new life with Jesus—including juicy little morsels of deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy and unkind speech. No longer are we to dine or even snack on such habits, attitudes and considerations. We are to be ‘new’ with a newborn’s craving for milk so that we can ‘grow into a full experience of salvation.’ Unfortunately, a quick survey of our Christian family betrays an anemic salvation. We have experienced God’s kindness in being saved, but we remain placid in our faith. This placidity isn’t simply evident in our resistance to share what we know, but in our refusal to grow beyond our comfort zone.
If we refuse to give up the tasty morsels of what the world tells us will bring happiness and success, we will never develop a taste for growth-producing spiritual nourishment. A baby who is fed with sugar-water, may lose his/her appetite for milk; children often prefer ‘junk’ food over healthy. The same is true of us spiritually. Our taste buds need to be shifted, we need to crave the good things of God and not be satisfied with the occasional spoonful here and there. We need to develop a taste for God’s goodness. Once we have, we will never be satisfied with anything less!
~ Pastor Jane
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!