HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, November 28, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “The Need for a Messiah”
Texts – various – Genesis 6:5, Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9-10,13, Romans 12:2, Isaiah 52:13-13:12
When God first created the world and placed Adam and Eve in the Garden, He declared the finished product ‘very good.’ Unfortunately, people couldn’t resist the temptation to misuse His gift of freewill and chose to disobey the one ‘thou shalt not’ He had given to them as their means of having choice. They were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but with a little persuasion from the serpent, they fell hard. Their disobedience unleashed a most deadly virus—every single person, and the whole of creation in fact, is now hopelessly corrupted. God’s ‘very good’ was no more. And in Genesis 3, we find the first of God’s interventions on our behalf—promising the demise of the serpent, evicting the first people from their home thereby cutting off their access to the tree of life…yet also promising a coming Messiah who would bring the cure for sin. At just the right time, the Messiah—God’s promised Rescuer—would come.
But time passed and it appeared that God had forgotten about His promise. Humanity proceeded along doing what came naturally for a creation infected with a spiritual disease. By the time of Noah, God knew that again, the time had come for Him to intervene. “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil…right from childhood!” (Genesis 6:5, 8:21). So He sent the flood and began again.
A few short generations later, the people banded together to make a name for themselves in defiance to God and began construction on the tower of Babel. But again, God knew that this course would lead to no good and intervened, causing the people to speak in different languages. Their inability to communicate caused them to spread out and by doing so, they obeyed the plan of God to fill and take care of the whole of the planet (Genesis 11).
In Genesis 12, we read how God chose to intervene in humanity’s story by identifying the man through whom He would bring about His promised Messiah. Abram heard God’s call and obeyed; then twenty-five years later God performed a miracle for this man, now 100 years old with a ninety-year-old wife, by giving them a baby boy named Isaac. Theirs was a far from perfect family, yet we have read how God watched over this particular family—from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—leading them to the land of Egypt where they grew into a large nation over the course of 400 years. A great nation, but a growing threat to the mind of the Egyptian pharaoh.
The people are enslaved and God intervenes for them…identifying them as His chosen people…and releasing them from their human slave masters. They then wander in the wilderness for forty years until the people are ready to receive the land God had been promising to help them secure—the land of Canaan. But again, their relationship with God was anything but a straight line of obedience and time after time, God intervenes to bring them back onto the track that will lead to the fulfillment of His plan for the Messiah.
In order to bring about some semblance of order to this unruly nation, God first sets judges then kings over His people to guide them as a nation. But obedience to Him is always short-lived…the people, though an organized nation, cannot order the chaos created in their lives by the virus of sin. He again intervenes and provides messages to men and women as His prophets to share with the nation. The people cannot claim to be unaware of God’s expectations. The prophets, though sharing messages from God, do not generally fare well in the arena of human opinion; while some are listened to, most are ignored or even silenced.
God’s next intervention makes it clear that the Jewish nation’s status as God’s chosen people, does not come with any sort of favouritism. God raises up first the Assyrians and then the Babylonians…and the people are carted off into captivity. They are allowed to return under Cyrus, but the years plod on, the Messiah is nowhere to be found…and the virus of sin remains very much alive.
From the time in the Garden of Eden to the time of the Roman empire, humanity had found itself set firmly on a self-destruct course; God’s interventions throughout the years are the only thing that have kept us from being successful in achieving our own demise. But God wasn’t done. What was taking so long for the Messiah to come? I believe, in part, that God wanted us to recognize our own inability to bring about a solution to the virus of sin.
“HOPELESS ON OUR OWN”
Romans 3:10 – “No one is righteous…not even one!”
Romans 3:23 – “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
Romans 6:23a – “For the wages of sin is death…”
Paul, who wrote the book of Romans, had trained as a Pharisee and knew the requirements of the Law better than most. He understood that there was no hope for man apart from God’s intervention. There was not a single human on the planet who could ever achieve ‘righteousness’ on their own; everyone has sinned, we cannot ever achieve the standard required by God to live in unimpeded communion with Him; the cost of our disobedience was our eternal souls…unless God intervened again!
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, but our Christmas celebrations of Jesus coming to earth are incomplete if we ignore the reason for His coming…to be made a substitutionary sacrifice for each one of us! It is only because of this that we can have any hope at all.
“HOPE EXTENDED BY GOD”
Romans 6:23b – “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
John 3:16 – “God loved the world so much, He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Romans 5:8 – “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
God’s gift to us, this gift of hope, came with an almost unspeakable price tag. His intervention of providing a Messiah—not to rescue the Jewish nation from servitude to others, but the rescue of all peoples from the virus of sin responsible for our eternal deaths—required God to become human, to live the life of a helpless person amongst His creation, to die a most gruesome death on our behalf all the while having His sacrifice spat upon. Who but God could have? No one!
And the ease by which we are permitted to access this sacrifice is almost unfathomable.
Romans 10:9-10,13 – “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved… For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Make a declaration of Jesus’ Lordship, believe with all your heart that He is once again alive, then openly share your faith. That’s it! The gift is free, but it was not cheap. Neither is it to be taken lightly. Unfortunately, there are people who misuse this scripture and live as though a one-time confession is all that God requires from us. But the price was too dear for us to defile it in such a way. God demands more of us who choose to believe in His Son.
Romans 12:2 – “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
We are expected to become new, to love our enemies, to do the good work God has planned for us…not to simply bask in our ‘get out of hell’ free status while we wait for the final journey that will permit us to enter into the pearly gates like some gated community reserved for the elite. Jesus’ followers are to live lives of obedience to God—serving both Him and others, demonstrating God’s love to all.
So, on this first Advent Sunday of hope, what are our takeaways?
· Sin has thoroughly corrupted us, and there is no good thing in any of us or in the world around us apart from God.
· God loved us, but justice had to be served; to simply ‘let it slide’ would have corrupted the justice of God.
· The only sufficient payment for disobedience to our Creator, our Sovereign God, was capital punishment—the death penalty. God Himself paid the required price for all sin through the death of Jesus.
· It is then up to us whether or not we will choose the gift of hope offered. Salvation through the forgiveness of sins is absolutely free, but don’t think that means there is no cost to being a disciple of Jesus. He Himself told us, “You cannot be my disciple without giving up everything you own” (Luke 14:33). He wasn’t merely talking about money and possessions, but also allegiances, desires, your reputation, your rights…all of it! He will not allow anything or anyone to shove Him out of His rightful place in the lives of those who accept His gift. To do so would be foolish—we need the Messiah!
For further study…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dEh25pduQ8 (The Bible Project – Messiah)
Sunday, December 5, 2021- “The Birth of the Messiah” 2nd Sunday of Advent - Bethlehem - In-person and Online – Communion Sunday
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional – Thursday, November 25, 2021
"11 The rest of Israel heard that the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had built an altar at Geliloth at the edge of the land of Canaan, on the west side of the Jordan River. 12 So the whole community of Israel gathered at Shiloh and prepared to go to war against them.” (Joshua 22:11-12, NLT)
There is an inherent danger with making assumptions. While our assumptions based on experience, past events and what we observe may be correct, they can also be tragically wrong. And the results can be devastating. Such was nearly the case with the people of Israel. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe Manasseh had been granted their land on the east side of the Jordan, with the condition that they would help the other tribes secure the land on the west side as their inheritance. The two and a half tribes had done so and Joshua grants them permission to return to the other side of the river. Before they crossed back over, they decided to erect an ‘imposing’ altar (v.10). The other tribes get word and go into panic mode.
Their reaction is understandable. They knew from recent past that God could hold them all accountable for the sin of a few. Hadn’t they been defeated in the battle against the relatively small town of Ai because Achan had disobeyed a direct order from God and kept some of the plunder that was set aside for destruction after they captured Jericho? Now here were the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh building an unsanctioned altar. What were they thinking? An immediate intervention was deemed necessary—the tribes would go to war with one another!
Thankfully, words of wisdom prevailed and it was determined that before any drastic action was taken, a delegation should be sent to the east side of the river to talk. They were still fully under the assumption that a grave sin was involved, but just maybe they could talk some sense into the wayward tribes and prevent war.
On hearing the accusation of the western tribes, those who had built the altar were able to provide an explanation. The altar was not meant as a place of worship, but as a memorial and safeguard, to remind those on the west side that the tribes on the east side had as much claim to worship God as the rest. They, too, had made an assumption, “24 “The truth is, we have built this altar because we fear that in the future your descendants will say to ours, ‘What right do you have to worship the LORD, the God of Israel? 25 The LORD has placed the Jordan River as a barrier between our people and you people of Reuben and Gad. You have no claim to the LORD.’ So your descendants may prevent our descendants from worshiping the LORD.”
Both assumptions were not without potential truth, but were not based on current fact. Thank goodness for cooler heads. Thank goodness they chose to ask questions and talk first, rather than jumping to unwarranted action. If only we would learn from their example! We make assumptions based upon what we ‘know’ and are convinced we are correct; however, when parameters change, when new information is provided that affects what we know, we need to humbly accept that we may have been wrong or that there is need for a new way of thinking. As tempting and natural as it comes to us as humans, we really ought to curb our habit of making assumptions…better always to get the facts!
Daily Devotional – Monday, November 22, 2021
"Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” (Revelation 16:15, NLT)
I must confess, my lack of mental readiness for the arrival of winter has left me unprepared. Yes, we got the snow tires put on, have signed up to volunteer with the Christmas Kettle and I have even contemplated pulling out the Christmas decorations this weekend, yet I am not ready for the snow. It can be quite beautiful and even fun, but the coming cold, extra caution required in driving and the need to don the assorted winter-attire is not something I am looking forward to. Every year it’s the same thing…no surprises there…but this year I am just not ‘ready.’ My lack of readiness showed up this morning as I left the house, without a coat, gloves or boots…the sky was clear and the temperature was only at the freezing mark, so no need to be concerned about heavy outerwear. Or so I thought.
Five minutes into my drive to work, the snow started to fall and within an hour the ground is now fully blanketed with about an inch of the white stuff. I could claim I didn’t know, but that wouldn’t be truthful. I had read the forecast this morning calling for an accumulation of 15-20cm of snow by tomorrow morning…I just didn’t count on it starting right away. My self-imposed lack of preparation reminds me of other times when we refuse to get ready for something we know is coming and fail to properly prepare.
There is much talk these days in Christian circles about being ready for Jesus to return. We look around at the world around us and we want an escape. Jesus has promised to come back and there’s no doubt that He will. But are we as mentally ready for Him as we say? Check your preparation! If you heard the trumpet sound today, what activity might it interrupt? What regrets might you immediately experience? What undone business or secrets might cause a moment of panic or anxiety? Might the sound even leave you perplexed? “Now? Not now! I need more time…I’m not ready or prepared.” We’ve had over 2,000 years of warning, so we’ve got no excuse. Are there things that you should be taking care of to fully prepare for Jesus’ return. Stop stalling, or you may find yourself taken by surprise. I know…
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, November 21, 2021
Youtube link... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEISkm0UdCE
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, November 21, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Going Home”
Texts – Ezra, Nehemiah, Isaiah 45
Last week, we left the people of Israel and Judah having been taken captive by first the Assyrians and then finally the Babylonians. They have been removed from their homeland and strangers have been moved in to take their place. They are desperate to go home, but because of their sin, ‘the land has vomited them out’ (Leviticus 18:28), just as it had done to the earlier Canaanite inhabitants. What has happened is exactly as was predicted; no one could claim, “I didn’t know.” However, as much as God was disappointed with His people, He was by no means done with them…and He had a plan to bring them back. But, like many of God’s plans, this one comes with a couple of surprises. And, years before God enacts His plan, He tells the people all about it.
Isaiah 45:1-6,13 - “This is what the Lord says to Cyrus, his anointed one,
whose right hand he will empower.
Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear.
Their fortress gates will be opened,
never to shut again.
2 This is what the Lord says:
“I will go before you, Cyrus,
and level the mountains.
I will smash down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
3 And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness--
I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.
4 “And why have I called you for this work?
Why did I call you by name when you did not know me?
It is for the sake of Jacob my servant,
Israel my chosen one
I am the Lord;
there is no other God.
I have equipped you for battle,
though you don’t even know me,
6 so all the world from east to west
will know there is no other God.…
13 I will raise up Cyrus to fulfill my righteous purpose,
and I will guide his actions.
He will restore my city and free my captive people--
without seeking a reward!
I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”
At the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, it wouldn’t have made any sense. “Cyrus? Cyrus who?” Fast forward 150 years, give or take a few decades, and it becomes perfectly obvious. God was going to work through a pagan king to bring His people back home to Jerusalem after the time of their punishment by exile was completed. Jeremiah had told the people how long their exile would last, “This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again” (29:10). And as we will discover today, God fulfilled His promise.
Over the seventy years that the Jews found themselves enslaved in a foreign land, empires had risen up only to crash down hard. The Babylonian empire, so great when it conquered Jerusalem, had fallen to the Persian empire under Cyrus the Great. Unlike previous emperors, Cyrus had a respect for the customs and religions of the lands he conquered. He is even credited by some with creating the first declaration of human rights as found on the ‘Cyrus Cylinder.’ Despite being a pagan king, God most obviously had an impact on the heart of this man.
“FREE TO GO HOME”
Ezra 1:1-3 – “In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: 2 “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you!”
Can you imagine being amongst the captives when the word began to spread? The new power of the land was going to let you return home, was going to encourage others to support your endeavours and was returning items stolen by earlier kings for the rebuilding of the Temple. Sounds too good to be true. But it was true! The invitation was sent out and under the leadership of Zerubbabel a number of the Jewish exiles made the long journey home.
The events that follow as outlined in the book of Ezra and Nehemiah (originally written as a single piece by an author known as the chronicler), cover one hundred years and three groups of exiles returning home under three individuals. God used each of the leaders to rebuild one major aspect of their home. Zerubbabel, the first governor of Judaea, oversaw the rebuilding of the Temple. Ezra, a priest, taught people the Law of Moses. Nehemiah, a later governor assigned by the Persian Empire, oversaw the rebuilding of the walls of the city and implemented further reforms. At times, the story reads a little bit like a ‘two steps forward and one step back’ narrative.
“REBUILDING THEIR HOME”
The Altar is Rebuilt – Ezra 3:2-3 – “Then Jeshua son of Jehozadak joined his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his family in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel. They wanted to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, as instructed in the Law of Moses, the man of God. Even though the people were afraid of the local residents, they rebuilt the altar at its old site. Then they began to sacrifice burnt offerings on the altar to the Lord each morning and evening.”
The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins – Ezra 3:7-8a – “Then the people hired masons and carpenters and bought cedar logs from the people of Tyre and Sidon, paying them with food, wine, and olive oil. The logs were brought down from the Lebanon mountains and floated along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Joppa, for King Cyrus had given permission for this. 8 The construction of the Temple of God began in midspring, during the second year after they arrived in Jerusalem.”
The Building is Paused – Ezra 4:4-5 – “Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. 5 They bribed agents to work against them and to frustrate their plans. This went on during the entire reign of King Cyrus of Persia and lasted until King Darius of Persia took the throne.”
In verse 24, we read that the enemies of the Jews convinced the then king, Artaxerxes, of the danger of allowing the project to continue and he brought it to a full stop. However, in the time of the next king, Darius, a more thorough search of the records was made and a very different directive given:
Building Resumes and Is Completed – Ezra 6:6-12 – “So King Darius sent this message:
“Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province west of the Euphrates River, and Shethar-bozenai, and your colleagues and other officials west of the Euphrates River—stay away from there! 7 Do not disturb the construction of the Temple of God. Let it be rebuilt on its original site, and do not hinder the governor of Judah and the elders of the Jews in their work.
8 “Moreover, I hereby decree that you are to help these elders of the Jews as they rebuild this Temple of God. You must pay the full construction costs, without delay, from my taxes collected in the province west of the Euphrates River so that the work will not be interrupted.
9 “Give the priests in Jerusalem whatever is needed in the way of young bulls, rams, and male lambs for the burnt offerings presented to the God of heaven. And without fail, provide them with as much wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil as they need each day. 10 Then they will be able to offer acceptable sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the welfare of the king and his sons.
11 “Those who violate this decree in any way will have a beam pulled from their house. Then they will be lifted up and impaled on it, and their house will be reduced to a pile of rubble. 12 May the God who has chosen the city of Jerusalem as the place to honor his name destroy any king or nation that violates this command and destroys this Temple.
“I, Darius, have issued this decree. Let it be obeyed with all diligence.”
Ezra and Nehemiah faced similar opposition when it came to cleaning up the priesthood, teaching the people to follow God’s laws and rebuilding the city walls; unfortunately, not all the backward steps were as a result of the work of their enemies who didn’t want to see the city rebuilt and prosper.
At each stage of the rebuilding of their home, the various leaders reminded the people of the importance of serving God alone. They did this through the retelling of their story, reading the Law of Moses, times of confession and sacrifice and times to celebrate with joy the new things that God was doing. As we read through the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, it is impossible to miss the joy mixed with sorrow, the desire to move on but the calls for caution, the desire to be free yet constantly being restrained. They may be home, but they are still not ‘free.’
“HOME, BUT NOT FREE”
Nehemiah 9:34-37 – “Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey your Law or listen to the warnings in your commands and laws. 35 Even while they had their own kingdom, they did not serve you, though you showered your goodness on them. You gave them a large, fertile land, but they refused to turn from their wickedness.
36 “So now today we are slaves in the land of plenty that you gave our ancestors for their enjoyment! We are slaves here in this good land. 37 The lush produce of this land piles up in the hands of the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They have power over us and our livestock. We serve them at their pleasure, and we are in great misery.”
Though free to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and inhabit the land formerly the sovereign territory of Judah, they remained a vassal state of the great Persian empire. Over the course of the next five hundred years, Israel would find itself under the control of the Greeks, Seleucids and Romans as slaves to foreign nations. They dreamed of the coming Messiah and the day when He would bring them freedom. But there was another freedom that the early exilic leaders recognized that the people needed.
The returned exiles were quick to fall into old sinful habits:
· Both Ezra and Nehemiah had to rebuke many, including leaders and priests, about marrying and making alliances with foreigners who worshiped other gods. Wasn’t that a major reason for their captivity in the first place? Idolatry had lead them into adultery against God.
· Nehemiah came to the defense of the oppressed who were being mistreated by their wealthy counterparts; due to the large amounts of interest being charged, the people were having to mortgage their property and sell their children as slaves just to survive. Nehemiah told them to stop it!
· After returning to Babylon, having acted as governor of Judaea for twelve years, Nehemiah returned for a visit and found the Temple being used for storage space and those who were to be performing religious duties returned to the fields because the people were neglecting to pay them the agreed upon support. He also found people selling and buying on the Sabbath. Nehemiah once again put things back in order but you can hear the doubt in his words that it will last, “Remember this in my favor, O my God.” He has done his best, but the people’s greatest problem persists…sin…and he doubts their ability to live fully obedient despite consequences.
They needed saving from themselves and their natural inclination to reject God in favour of other loves. They needed another rescuer. Not a pagan king, but God the King…and as promised He was coming, though as yet, they did not fully understand. Just as Isaiah had promised the coming of Cyrus, he also told of a greater king to come…which brings us to Advent next week and our “Need of a Messiah.”
So what are our takeaways?
· When God makes a promise, we can trust Him to keep it, even when it doesn’t make any sense to us. God-sense is anything but common sense. If He could tell the people of a coming rescuer in the form of a pagan king years in advance, what reason do we have to doubt His promises?
· When doing God’s work, we will face opposition. We have an enemy who does not want us to succeed in our obedience to God. But, when we hit roadblocks, it is up to us to continue in our obedience. Our success is determined, not by numbers or bank accounts or even the approval of people…obedience to God alone will result in His ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.”
· We all long for a home that is coming when we will no longer be slaves—slaves to the tyranny that comes from living on a rotting planet as well as the tyranny of sin that exists in each one of us. But without God in our lives, we can never hope to know freedom, either on this side of the grave or the next.
For further study…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkETkRv9tG8 (The Bible Project – Overview: Ezra-Nehemiah)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSua9_WhQFE (The Bible Project – Exile)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bszz_ReGfXQ (Spoken Gospel – Ezra-Nehemiah)
Sunday, November 28, 2021- “The Need for a Messiah” 1st Sunday of Advent - Prophets - In-person and Online – Communion Sunday
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional – Thursday, November 18, 2021
"I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving.” (2 Corinthians 9:2, NLT)
The Jerusalem Church needed the support of other believers and the Corinthians Church had stepped up with enthusiasm. They were eager to help out and Paul had been telling others about their generosity, which had spurred others on to give as well. However, Paul recognized an inherent problem with enthusiasm; while it is helpful to provide the impetus for making a strong beginning, it is not always enough to see us through to the completion of the thing begun. At times, the initial excitement creates a joy in our service…the work doesn’t feel like work at all. But over time, that same excitement can wane and the real work of bringing the thing to completion begins.
Paul provides some direction. Make a plan. Keep at it. Do it for God. Give generously, not out of guilt. Maybe that’s where the author of Mary Poppins got her inspiration, “Well begun is half done.” Starting well, with enthusiasm, will take us so far, but it often requires hard work to see a thing through.
Daily Devotional – Tuesday, November 16, 2021
"And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31, NLT)
This year, I am going through Oswald J. Chambers devotional book, “My Utmost for His Highest.” In today’s entry, he ended his thought with, “Our human relationships are the actual conditions in which the ideal life of God is to be exhibited.” As I got thinking about it, it would seem to me that we could go so far as to say that the quality of our relationship with God is tangibly demonstrated in our relationships with people—family members, friends, our neighbours, and the strangers we meet every day. The proof of our relationship with God is shown in how we interact with others…both the ones we enjoy and those we find more challenging.
How can we say we understand God’s love and forgiveness if we choose to withhold either from certain individuals? How can we pretend to be in God’s ‘good books’ when we don’t extend generosity and compassion toward strangers? When we refuse to obey God’s command to love others as we love ourselves, we cannot claim to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength…no matter what we say to the contrary.
There is no way around it. The depth of our love for God is demonstrated through our relationships with others. No, not everyone will be kind to us in return, but that’s not the requirement that concerns God. He wants us to love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us…regardless of how they respond. Why? Because it doesn’t matter how they respond. What matters is that we show people a better way—the way of God—which requires a good deal of humility and submission on our parts…the very qualities that took Jesus to the cross on our behalf. He didn’t whine about how unfairly He was being treated, He simply continued to show people the way to God. He continues to do so through His followers. How well we continue His work to the world will in large part be determined by the quality of relationship we enjoy with our Saviour and the Father.
Daily Devotional – Monday, November 15, 2021
"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)
I generally think of myself as a polite person, but there’s nothing like rudeness from another to test that theory. By the time I had someone cut out in traffic in front of me this morning with too little room to spare, I had already had my fill of minor irritations caused by others’ inconsideration. Typically not one to lay on the horn, I found myself feeling justified doing so in order to let this individual know how I felt about their poor choice. I was also less than gracious toward this irresponsible, inconsiderate, rude, incompetent…‘driver.’ Looking back on it, however, I realize that if I hadn’t already been irritated when they pulled out, I would not have reacted the same. The fruit testers had been out in force this morning and my own limitations had been reached…admittedly my annoyance bubbling to the surface far too quickly today. It was just a minor test, but I admit it, I failed.
What do I mean by ‘fruit testers?’ Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit grows His fruit in us, but sometimes we need reminders that there is still more room to grow. His fruit is patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. The things that showed up my irritation this morning, simply demonstrated for me that I continue to need Him to work specifically in those areas of my life…I still have a lot of room to grow! So, after a little time to repent my sour attitude, I have asked God to continue to work in these areas of my life. “Why make such a big deal about it? Everybody gets annoyed from time to time, right?” Because I really don’t believe that my response looked much like Jesus today and I really do want to become more and more like Him…and maybe when the next ‘fruit test’ comes my way, I’ll achieve a better score than I did this morning.
Having our character tested is one of the ways that God continues His refining process in our lives. Remain pliable in His hands…He really does want the best for each one of us.
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, November 14, 2021
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, November 14, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “God’s Unfaithful Spouse”
Texts – Hosea, 2 Kings 17, 2 Chronicles 36 +
Today, I want to begin with a story. It’s about a man who others probably thought was a bit of a chump—easily duped and deceived—who married a woman with a reputation for being sexually promiscuous. They had three children together, but it was obvious that at least two were not his own; in the face of her undeniable adultery, he remained faithful, providing for her needs and that of the children. However, she left him and found herself in a very bad place; this man could have washed his hands of her, but instead he paid off the debts she owed to her lovers and brought her back into his home. She was permitted to live with him once again, but this time he told her that she needed to remain chaste; he would care for her, but refused to play the game of pretending she was going to be his faithful wife and, for an undetermined amount of time, refused to engage in sexual relations with her. Time would tell whether she was capable of remaining faithful…
What man, in his right mind, would agree to this kind of marital relationship? The prophet Hosea, that’s who! As unbelievable as it may seem, Hosea was following God’s directions. God had directed him to marry a prostitute or ‘sexually promiscuous’ woman. So Hosea married Gomer who he knew fit the requirement. She did bear Hosea a son, who Hosea named Jezreel, but it soon became obvious that the life of a faithful wife didn’t suit Gomer. She was soon to get pregnant again and gave birth to a daughter, who Hosea named Lo-ruhamah, meaning ‘not loved.’ And then, shortly after weaning her daughter, she became pregnant yet again, and Hosea named this second son, Lo-ammi, ‘not my people.’ Hosea knew these last two children were not his own, but he also knew that his life was being used for a much greater purpose. God had already told him what to expect, that this woman he married would commit adultery and would have children that were not his offspring.
So, why would God cause his prophet to suffer this way—why assign this faithful man to a life of such disloyalty, grief and to be treated as a laughing stock amongst his peers? Because God was entrusting Hosea with a sacred task—to represent God’s own relationship with His chosen people. God wanted to show His ‘wife,’ Israel, what it was like for Him to be their faithful husband in the face of their never-ending adultery. Hosea’s story was God’s story. Hosea’s life was to serve as a picture of what God endured and to serve as a warning that their sham marriage, on the part of Israel, was about to come to an end. God was no longer going to abide the pretense.
“GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE HAVE BEEN UNFAITHFUL”
Hosea 5:3-7 – ‘I know what you are like, O Ephraim.
You cannot hide yourself from me, O Israel.
You have left me as a prostitute leaves her husband;
you are utterly defiled.
4 Your deeds won’t let you return to your God.
You are a prostitute through and through,
and you do not know the Lord.
5 “The arrogance of Israel testifies against her;
Israel and Ephraim will stumble under their load of guilt.
Judah, too, will fall with them.
6 When they come with their flocks and herds
to offer sacrifices to the Lord,
they will not find him,
because he has withdrawn from them.
7 They have betrayed the honor of the Lord,
bearing children that are not his.
Now their false religion will devour them
along with their wealth.’
Unfaithfulness to God is no small matter! From amongst all the peoples of the world, God had chosen Abraham through whom He would see His great plan revealed—the complete restoration of all that had been lost when sin entered into the world. The Israelites were to God a people that He had chosen to reveal Himself for the benefit of all humanity. He performed incredible miracles for them—rescuing them from Egypt, providing them with water and manna in the wilderness for forty years. He led them in a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night as well as helping them to accomplish the task of taking over possession of the promised land of Canaan. He had chosen to dwell in their very midst—demonstrated through His provision of commands and the directions for the construction of a Tabernacle and later the Temple. He had made a covenant with them that He hadn’t made with any other nation of the world.
The people were fully aware of what was required of them, yet failed time and again to remain loyal to God alone. The seduction of other loves proved too much for them to resist. By the time of Hosea, God had begun to warn His people of coming judgment if they did not repent and return back to Him immediately. In the time of the judges, God had allowed various nations to oppress the Hebrew people to bring them back to their senses and return to Him. But, Hosea warned, a time was coming when God would choose to turn a deaf ear to their cries for help. His patience was wearing thin. God had remained ever faithful to them—providing all that they needed, giving them unmerited favour, forgiving them when they repented—but He also knew a time was coming…and had in fact arrived…when they would no longer come back to Him. In order to restore the relationship, God was going to have to do something drastic.
God was about to withdraw His protection from the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and was going to advance the Assyrians against them.
“GOD BRINGS PUNISHMENT”
Hosea 11:5-7 – “But since my people refuse to return to me,
they will return to Egypt
and will be forced to serve Assyria.
6 War will swirl through their cities;
their enemies will crash through their gates.
They will destroy them,
trapping them in their own evil plans.
7 For my people are determined to desert me.
They call me the Most High,
but they don’t truly honor me.”
During Hosea’s day, the Egyptians and Assyrians were vying for territory and power. The chapter of 2 Kings 17 explains how Israel found itself first answering to Egypt, then details the events of Israel’s capture and the relocation of its peoples by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The city of Samaria suffered a siege of three years before finally surrendering to the conquerors, who then displaced the people and moved-in other conquered peoples to the newly acquired territory.
Later, in the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah, God gave similar warnings to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Assyrians never were able to take over the kingdom of Judah, but the southern kingdom found itself required to pay tribute to Egypt after the death of King Josiah, much the way the northern kingdom had; however, after pilfering Judah, it appears that Egypt wasn’t that interested in retaining control and in 2 Chronicles 36 we read that the Babylonians, the new up and coming power from the north, captured Jerusalem in 586 BC.
Why would God mobilize enemy nations against His own chosen people? And make no mistake…it was His doing. In the prophet Habakkuk’s discussion with God, He reveals to the prophet, “I am raising up the Babylonians, a cruel and violent people. They will march across the world and conquer other lands” (Habakkuk 1:6). Habakkuk protests, “O Lord, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us, to punish us for our many sins. 13 But you are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil. Will you wink at their treachery? Should you be silent while the wicked swallow up people more righteous than they? (Habakkuk 1:12b-13). The prophet understands that God has allowed the Babylonians to conquer His people, but he cannot wrap his mind around the fact that God would choose to use an evil, pagan, cruel nation to bring about His justice.
In hindsight, we know that God had no intention of eliminating the people of Israel, despite what it looked like. God tells Hosea that He simply cannot give up Israel entirely—though betrayed time and again by His faithless spouse, He continues to care deeply for His people.
“THE PEOPLE WILL RETURN”
Hosea 11:8-11 – “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?
How can I let you go?
How can I destroy you like Admah
or demolish you like Zeboiim?
My heart is torn within me,
and my compassion overflows.
9 No, I will not unleash my fierce anger.
I will not completely destroy Israel,
for I am God and not a mere mortal.
I am the Holy One living among you,
and I will not come to destroy.
10 For someday the people will follow me.
I, the Lord, will roar like a lion.
And when I roar,
my people will return trembling from the west.
11 Like a flock of birds, they will come from Egypt.
Trembling like doves, they will return from Assyria.
And I will bring them home again,”
says the Lord.
God punishes, not merely out of fierce anger as a person might, but out of holy necessity. If they never return to Him, they will be lost forever and so He intervenes…His care is too deep and His love is too strong to allow Him to sit passively by while His creation sets itself on a course for destruction. And He is determined to see His plan fulfilled…He has promised the Messiah through the line of Abraham and His promises never fail!
So, what did God want from His spouse?
“WHAT DOES GOD WANT?”
Hosea 6:1-6 – “Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces;
now he will heal us.
He has injured us;
now he will bandage our wounds.
2 In just a short time he will restore us,
so that we may live in his presence.
3 Oh, that we might know the Lord!
Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
or the coming of rains in early spring.”
4 “O Israel and Judah,
what should I do with you?” asks the Lord.
“For your love vanishes like the morning mist
and disappears like dew in the sunlight.
5 I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces--
to slaughter you with my words,
with judgments as inescapable as light.
6 I want you to show love,
not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
more than I want burnt offerings.”
God’s desire is to have a relationship with His people. He wants us to have the same faithfulness to Him as He has toward us. He is jealous for our undivided love; the kind of love that He has for us. Why should He have to share our affection? Why should the One we claim to know remain a veritable stranger? We should not expect to enjoy good things from God if we aren’t also prepared to acknowledge their source.
God allows difficulties into our lives for a variety of reasons…sometimes to strengthen our faith in Him, sometimes to provide course correction, and sometimes to punish. An undisciplined child turns into an entitled, selfish and rebellious adult. God wants so much better for us. In fact, the author of Hebrews echoes other authors in Scripture that tell us that God’s punishment is a demonstration of His love for us, “For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child” (12:6). Whatever the reason, the difficulties He allows into our lives always have a purpose, even if we cannot see it. No discipline is enjoyable but it is capable of producing great benefits…for ourselves, personally, for others and for the fulfillment of God’s ultimate plan.
So what are our takeaways?
· The Bible tells us that the Church is the bride of Christ—God still views His chosen people, all those who believe in His Son, as being in a covenant relationship with Him that requires loyalty, fidelity and love
· God still punishes us when it is required, but is quick to forgive any who repent. His punishment is not a sign of His hatred or apathy; it is because He cares too much not to provide us with needed motivation to encourage us off of our own self-determined destinations for destruction
· God may choose to provide us with opportunities to grow, to change directions or for discipline through sources we don’t appreciate. Habakkuk couldn’t understand God’s choice of the Babylonians to punish the people of Judah, yet seventy years later, God knew that the time would be ripe for the people to return to Jerusalem newly committed to serving Him. Even when we don’t understand the plan, we can always trust the One whose plan it is.
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional – Wednesday, November 10, 2021
" 34 Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all.” (1 Corinthians 15:34, NLT)
God knows us completely, but how well do we know God? Too many Christians are so in name only—they’ve done time in church, given some money, even learned some verses—but beyond that their behaviour, thoughts and words more closely resemble that of people who don’t profess a relationship with God at all. Instead of treating their faith as a life-encompassing commitment, they assume that the scraps that they assign to God will suffice as some sort of exclusive membership card—and they’re in! But the Bible is clear, “7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit” (Galatians 6:7-8). But how do we attempt to mock God and His justice?
We do so when we ignore, deny and condemn God’s truth. The Corinthians denied the resurrection and Paul asked them, if the resurrection wasn’t real, why espouse to have faith at all? If it’s too unbelievable that there is life after this one, then we deny the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and our faith in Him is nothing but a lie.
We mock God when we create Him in our own image, when we assume that our version of right from wrong is correct, even when it contradicts what He has clearly told us in His word. Do we disregard portions of God’s instructions because we just don’t like them, putting more stock in our own feelings, thoughts and experiences? Do we assume that God must necessarily think the same way we do? If so, then we are walking on dangerous territory.
We mock God when we give Him the bare minimum—allowing ourselves to be ‘inconvenienced’ momentarily to prove just how very loyal we are—yet ignore the fact that as Christ’s followers we are to become more like Him continually. People who come to know us for any length of time should know us as kind, compassionate and generous. It’s not that we won’t make mistakes, but we will feel shame at having disappointed God and will seek to be diligent once again in our walk after we repent of the messes we make.
We mock God when our work for Him is nothing more than a sham and an attempt to get the applause of others, rather than having the credit going back to God. God will not share His glory. If we’re seeking the limelight through our involvement in ministry, and yet withhold performing the daily acts of ‘hidden’ kindnesses we are called to participate in—giving a cup of water, visiting a prisoner, providing shelter to the homeless, or clothing to someone in need when it is within our power to do so—we may end up paying for our inaction with our very lives…our spiritual eternal lives.
Jesus made His position crystal clear: “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Daily Devotional – Monday, November 8, 2021
" Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NLT)
The chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 has become known by many in the Church as the ‘love chapter.’ In it, Paul expounds on the supremacy of love above all else—above abilities, above generosity, above sacrifice—because without love, everything else becomes meaningless. All these things will some day no longer exist, but love, faith and hope will be all that remain of the things that we put so much stock in—love being the greatest of the three. So given that fact, he continues his argument, we should set aside lesser things so that we can focus on what is truly important. Paul tells his audience that it’s all a part of growing up and becoming spiritually mature. However, even the Apostle Paul acknowledges that while these things are true, they are also difficult for us to comprehend. He promises that we will someday enjoy a new level of clarity as to the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ but for now we must content ourselves with the knowledge that we will know ‘everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.’ Wait…what? God now knows me completely? It’s a nugget that just doesn’t seem to fit in the midst of Paul’s exhortation on the preeminence of love, but as I think about it, it’s not as misplaced as it may first appear.
In our day and age of the ‘ends justify the means,’ people are often less than honest…about a lot of things. But there is One with whom we can not fake or present a reasonable facsimile. God knows us as we are. This fact can be both troublesome and reassuring at the same time. Troublesome because He sees us as we are…no amount of ‘makeover’ can disguise who we really are from God. Yet, simultaneously reassuring, because even though God sees me, warts and all, He does not look upon anyone of us with disgust, but with His perfect love as our heavenly Father. Are there times that we displease Him? Absolutely. Will there be times we forget about His stated priorities? Undoubtedly. But despite this He continues to love us because His vision is clear and He sees us as we will be, through the blood of His Son, forgiven and fully sanctified. This is a mystery for believers because we know how imperfect we can be, but God is not limited by our concept of time. He views all of time—past, present and future—in His eternal now, He sees us and knows us better than we can ever know ourselves…and yet still loves us, with a love that is eager to embrace all who choose to walk into His arms!
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!