Daily Devotional – Monday, December 20, 2021
“14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” (Hebrews 2:14-15, NLT)
While the anticipation of eternal life in heaven can be a source of hope, joy and peace, the necessary occasion of physical death can cause us some anxiety. Death was never to be a part of our human experience, but was introduced into our world as a result of disobeying God. Even though we must all now pass through the experience of dying, it still feels foreign and we dread the various means by which our life may come to an end. Despite this fact, those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus and His redemptive work, have no reason to become enslaved to the fear of dying. For us it has become the natural next step—shedding a corruptible body for a heavenly one. The fear of death should be given no foothold in the life of the believer; if we have placed our faith in Jesus, we have only one Master—the One who defeated the devil and his power of death.
That means that we should be amongst the most courageous people on the planet—not foolhardy, but also not paralyzed into inactivity because of fear for our own personal safety, well-being, and longevity. If we say we believe that God is trustworthy, then we need to prove it. Fear is the opposite of faith…and we are called to be a people of faith. Our destination is secured, so we’ve no reason to hold back, to grow anxious or doubt God’s plan even though we may not understand it.
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, December 19, 2021
Youtube link... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zxJfkyKknc
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “The Return of the Messiah”
Texts – Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Matthew 16:21, John 14:1-3
Many people turn to the book of Revelation when times get scary. They want to know how things will end. But there’s a problem with that. John used a literary genre, apocalyptic literature, that no longer exists. Though popular and well understood in his day, it is a writing style that is very difficult to sift through and ascertain what is metaphorical and what is to be understood literally. Added to this difficulty is the instruction to John to write about, “things that are happening and things that will happen” (Revelation 1:19). The book of Revelation isn’t just about ‘end times.’ It covers from John’s stay on the Island of Patmos to Jesus’ return; but knowing what events apply to what time period has proven difficult for many biblical scholars and disagreements are never-ending.
So, today, rather than trying to delve into the book of Revelation in our brief time together, I want us to focus on what Jesus tells us about His return and I believe we will leave with greater clarity. But even with Jesus’ clear teaching, we may still walk away somewhat in the dark. Take for example, Jesus’ words to his early disciples.
Matthew 16:21 – “21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.”
Jesus told his first disciples all about the crucifixion and resurrection long before they were a reality, but they still didn’t understand. The first disciples thought they knew what the Messiah’s work would entail—freedom from worldly oppressors for the Jewish people; but they were wrong.
He has also told us about his second coming...
John 14:1-3 – “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”
Pretty straightforward, but still we are sometimes left confused. Is some of our struggle to understand the future events of Jesus’ second coming just as muddied because of wrong expectations? For instance, I have heard it wrongly said that believers will each receive a mansion in heaven; but that’s not what Jesus said. His Father has one home in which there are many rooms. That means that we’re all going to share!
Jesus told his disciples clearly what to expect, but they were still surprised and confused when it happened. Their presuppositions prevented them from comprehending Jesus’ very clear words…and from our vantage point we wonder how they could be so dense. Easy for us looking backward, but we may be just as ‘dense’ however when it comes to fully understanding what the Bible tells us about Jesus’ second coming. Today, we’re going to examine Matthew 24 in an attempt to better understand what to expect at the Messiah’s return.
It is good to note right from the onset that Jesus is describing a continuum of events that will take place between his ascension, when he returned to heaven, and his second coming when he will return to claim Lordship and judge the righteous and the disobedient.
“JESUS’ TELLS US WHAT TO EXPECT”
Matthew 24:1-2 – “As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. 2 But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”
Which is exactly what happened in 70AD when Rome, lead by Titus the son of the emperor Vespasian, destroyed the city of Jerusalem after it had revolted from Roman rule. The Temple was indeed magnificent, only just having been fully restored eight years earlier; when it was burned, it is said that the gold which had been used to cover the building melted and ran between the stones of the structure, which is why it was entirely dismantled, stone by stone—to collect all the gold.
Matthew 24:3-8 - 3 Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?”
4 Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, 5 for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. 7 Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. 8 But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.
First there will be ‘birth pangs’ which are… [false Messiahs, wars and threats of wars, famines and earthquakes]. No baby yet, just the early stages of labour…but what’s next?
Matthew 24:9-14 - 9 “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. 10 And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. 11 And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. 12 Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.
The end will be preceded by… [persecution, apostasy—believers rejecting their faith in Jesus, traitors to the faith, all nations will hear the Gospel]. If we were completing a checklist at this point, we could see that all of these things have happened during the time since Jesus went back to heaven; his return could happen, quite literally, any day. But the same could have been said many years ago as well!
But Jesus isn’t done and the next section is one in which we may find ourselves confused…
Matthew 24:15-22 - 15 “The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!) 16 “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. 17 A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. 18 A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. 19 How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. 20 And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. 22 In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones.
There is disagreement about the ‘sacrilegious object that causes desecration in the Holy Place’ and what Jesus meant. Some scholars believe this is a reference to Rome’s sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. Others believe it is a future event and refers to a new Temple built in Jerusalem. But either interpretation of Jesus’ words isn’t clear. Remember it is not Jesus’ teaching that is unclear, but our ability to comprehend. There may still be events that need to take place for us to be able to clearly understand what Jesus was telling his followers…or we may have blinders on and are unable to know the truth because of the things we already think are true, but in fact may not be.
Whether this event refers to the devastation of Jerusalem by Rome or a future event, one thing that may help guide our understanding is the fact that God’s Temple is no longer a building, but is us, his chosen ones, so it wouldn’t make sense that the ‘holy place’ is a rebuilt earthly temple made of stone as some have supposed. Just something to think about as we attempt to make clear what is, for now, unclear.
Matthew 24:23-28 - 23 “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. 25 See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.
26 “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it! 27 For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. 28 Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.
Jesus warns us that there are powers accessible to those wanting to deceive others…‘even God’s chosen ones!’ However, none of us should be that easily duped. Aside from the fact that some pretty convincing cons—fake Messiahs and false prophets—will be able to use counterfeit power to perform signs and wonders, Jesus’ return will not be an event anyone will miss out on. ‘As lightning flashes in the east and shines in the west,’ the Messiah’s return will be unmistakable. You won’t need anyone to tell you…you’ll already know!
Matthew 24:29-41 - 29 “Immediately after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.
32 “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. 34 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.”
36 However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.
37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.
40 “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.”
After a set of cataclysmic celestial events, Jesus will arrive. The peoples of the world will experience deep mourning. And then a trumpet blast will cause the angels to go out and collect Jesus’ followers. This is no scene from the once popular ‘Left Behind’ books and television series. No one is going to wake up someday scratching their heads and wondering where all the good Christians have gone. There are not going to be unmanned cars colliding or airplanes falling from the sky as drivers and pilots mysteriously vanish. When Jesus calls for his chosen ones, all will witness the events that follow.
However, no one knows when any of this will take place…not the angels, not even Jesus. So, how foolish for us to try and ‘calculate’ the end of the world. It will end, but only God the Father knows the day and time when the Messiah will return. And when he does, it will be a surprise like the flood. The people had been warned by Noah, but were completely unprepared! Like an avalanche that buries an entire mountainside, a tornado that wreaks destruction for miles or a tsunami that grows from a fast-moving wave to a wall of water that swallows whole islands…that is the kind of intensity we can expect to come with Jesus’ arrival.
Some Bible teachers have taught that believers will be raptured out of a time of terrible calamity—the great tribulation—before the end; but from Jesus’ own teaching, it appears that he will return after things have become horrible for all people and especially his followers; He is in fact coming to rescue them! He will rescue us when he brings an end to this sinful world as we know it and we will join him in this process.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 – “15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.”
We will ‘meet’ him in the air, ἀπάντησιν (apantasin). The Greek word used here is not about our departure, but rather our joining the bridegroom on his way to his appointed destination. We will ‘join’ Jesus in his coming to earth to bring about judgement and reward, not fly away to safety in a heavenly safehouse. From Jesus’ teaching (and Paul’s), there is no evidence that believers possess a ‘get out of tribulation free’ card.
And finally, Jesus makes it clear that we should be ‘caught doing good’ when he returns.
Matthew 24:42-51 – “42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.
45 “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 48 But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ 49 and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 50 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, 51 and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Seeing that Jesus could return at any time, we would each be wise to examine ourselves and answer the question concerning our own readiness. Are we doing all we can to love the people around us into God’s Kingdom?
So, on this fourth Advent Sunday of joy, what are some of our takeaways?
· Though we may not know when, Jesus’ return is certain. No matter how awful life on this planet becomes, we know that sin will not have the final say. We can have hope and a peace that passes all understanding in the most difficult of circumstances because Jesus is coming back.
· We must be cautious in assuming we know all there is to know—we can know what has been revealed to us by God, nothing more. If another believer disagrees with us, we would be wise to engage in further discussion and study, not simply allow disagreements to divide us. Jesus has told us that we are to live in the unity of the Spirit.
· Trying to guess when Jesus will return is a waste of precious time and energy—when we live in never-ending readiness, it won’t matter. Find ways to use your God-given gifts to encourage and grow the Church.
· Our confusion concerning Jesus’ words is more an indicator of our need to study and wait, then of any lack of clarity on his part. So study and ask the Holy Spirit to make the truths contained in the Bible clear.
· As we wait for Jesus to return, stay busy serving him…better to be caught in acts of obedience when the king arrives, then risk being banished from his kingdom altogether!
For further study…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UkAQOi3QPg (Desiring God - What is the Rapture?)
https://biblehub.com/greek/apante_sin_529.htm (Bible Hub - Concordance – ‘apantasin’)
Friday, December 24, 2021 @7pm – Christmas Eve Service – In-person and Online
Sunday, December 26, 2021 - Speaker: Donald Peck - In-person and Online
Friday, December 31, 2021 @7pm – New Year’s Eve Service at Faith EMC in Wasaga – In person only
Sunday, January 2, 2022 – 2022 Theme - “Growing Up Into Jesus” (Colossians 2:17) – In-person and Online
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional – Monday, December 13, 2021
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24, NLT)
I love the contagious nature of God-inspired kindness and generosity. A single act can have a similar effect to that of a stone thrown into the water, resulting in ripples that can stretch far and wide. In God’s Hands, our little random acts of kindness can have a far greater outcome than we could ever have guessed at the onset.
I am being given a front row seat to this principle on an almost daily basis through the work that is taking place in our church building these days. Our community outreach has high school students regularly coming to the church over their lunch hour—for some students, it has become the highlight of their day. We also have many people being blessed through our ‘Community Cupboard’ which provides clothing, food, and other needed items with no questions asked. Others, who are not a part of our congregation, are also getting involved—we have literally had strangers off the street offer supplies, finances and volunteer hours. The things that God is doing in our building are motivating others to acts of kindness of their own.
Even just today, I found myself giving an interview to one of our local papers. The reporter had been talking to one of our community members about our ‘Good Neighbour’ initiatives and wanted to know more. When we follow Jesus’ command to ‘treat others the way you want to be treated’ and are kind for kindness’ sake, the world notices…and sometimes they decide they want to be a part of something that they can’t explain, but they really appreciate.
Looking for a way to inspire others to acts of love and good works? Our own kindness can be a great motivator for others!
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, December 12, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “The Work of the Messiah”
Texts – Isaiah 11:6-9, Philippians 4:4-9, James 3:13-18, Revelation 21:1-7
Did Jesus come to bring peace to the earth or didn’t He? [responses]
When the angels announced the Messiah’s birth to the shepherds they declared, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)
However, Jesus Himself challenged His audience, “34 Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!” (Matthew 10:34-36)
So which is it? Both! For the one who chooses to believe in the work of the Messiah, He has promised peace with God, but the exact opposite is true of those who do not; their resistance to God’s truth robs them of the possibility of peace because they refuse to accept that obedience to God is the one and only choice that will result in a life well-lived.
When the ancient Israelites thought of the Messiah, they fully expected that He would come to rescue them from all earthly conflict. Isaiah paints a picture of an idyllic world.
Isaiah 11:6-9 – “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
and a little child will lead them all.
7 The cow will graze near the bear.
The cub and the calf will lie down together.
The lion will eat hay like a cow.
8 The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra.
Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.
9 Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,
for as the waters fill the sea,
so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.”
The Messiah has come, but none of us has ever experienced Isaiah’s picture of peace. What words would you use to describe our world today when it comes to peace? [destruction, anxiety, darkness, evil, greed, want]
The enemy of our souls, Satan and his demonic forces, did not surrender when Jesus defeated them through His death and resurrection…it simply revealed God’s great plan and set them into overdrive, determined to hit God where it hurt most—through the continued destruction of God’s creation and humankind. The devil’s work to destroy is rooted in conflict—people against God and one another. He uses our own resistance to God’s plan, our pride and our selfishness, to do his dirty work for him.
Peace is available to us, but it is not automatically given to all. We must choose to look beyond what we see in our world today, so full of sin and corruption. Some people think of peace as the absence of difficulties, but that is an impossibility this side of the grave. So, what is the peace that Jesus has promised to be based on?
Philippians 4:4-9 – “4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”
Peace is only possible as we live in obedience and relationship to God because He is the source of peace…anyway we might try to manufacture peace on our own can only produce cheap replicas and cannot last.
James 3:13-18 tells us, “13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
To have peace, we must truly want it, promote it and stay connected with the source of peace. True Christ followers must accept their role as peacemakers—living at peace with others and telling others of the peace they can have with God through Jesus. Jealousy—being envious of others—and selfishness—putting ourselves ahead of everyone else—work against peace; in fact, James tells us that if you suffer from jealousy and selfishness you are not filled with God’s wisdom, but rather are unduly influenced by things that are ‘earthly, unspiritual and demonic.’
What are some tangible ways that you cannot promote peace? [responses]
The fact that we can experience peace at all during our earthly lives is nothing short of a miracle, but in many ways, it will never compare to what is to come.
Revelation 21:1-7 – “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. 7 All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.”
Life in heaven will be one of complete and everlasting peace, but, remember, as elusive as it can be during our experience of life on planet earth, God’s peace is available to us in the here and now as well. Prior to dying on the cross, Jesus told His disciples what to expect (even though they didn’t get it) …that He was going to die and rise again, return to heaven to make preparations for us to join Him and He would send the Holy Spirit. He promised His followers, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27). As believers in Christ, we have available to us something the world cannot possess…that makes no sense to the natural mind in the midst of ongoing troubles…PEACE!
Follow-up - This week, think of one area of your life in which you are experiencing a lack of peace. Use Philippians 4:5-6 as a prayer guide to talk to God about it.
So, on this third Advent Sunday of peace, what are our takeaways?
· Jesus’ great work as the Messiah made it possible for us to experience peace with God… we no longer have to remain His enemies. He has provided us with a choice
· Christ-followers can experience peace even while surrounded by uncertainty and danger because the source of our peace is Him—not bank accounts, health, job security, promotions, a good reputation or even personal safety…all things that can be taken from us in a blink of an eye
· Satan works to rob Jesus’ followers of peace…he may have lost our souls, but that does not mean he’s content to let us go without a fight; he continues to attempt to discourage us so that we will not share the possibility of true and lasting peace with others. His handiwork takes the form of persecution and he is a master at sowing seeds of doubt
· We can experience a ‘peace that passes understanding,’ a peace that makes no sense given the world in which we live, when we strive to fill the role of peacemaker as Jesus called us to do—living at peace with others as far as it is possible from our efforts and spreading God’s wonderful message that we can now live in relationship with Him as He intended at the very beginning
· We have an amazing hope for the future…a peace that will be based on the absence of evil in a heavenly kingdom that will never be infected by sin’s destructive influence
For further study…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrzq_X1NNaA (The Bible Project – The Gospel)
Sunday, December 19, 2021- “The Return of the Messiah” 4th Sunday of Advent – Angel’s Joy - In-person and Online
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional – Thursday, December 9, 2021
“Serve only the LORD your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him.” (Deuteronomy 13:4, NLT)
We sometimes think that the test of obedience is whether or not we will resist sin and its allure and do what is right. Oswald J. Chambers, however, has stated that isn’t the real test at all. Sin was not part of the natural order of creation; it is a foreign substance. Those who serve God may need to resist the old habits developed prior to entering into a relationship with God, but we have little difficulty identifying sin and recognizing our need to steer clear. He proposed, and I have to agree, that the greater challenge is the need to resist following our own natural good thinking rather than choosing to obey God’s absolute best. Why? Because sometimes, even though we might have devised a good plan, it doesn’t line up with God’s. In fact, I would also suggest that sometimes God’s best can in fact look anything but ‘good’ from our natural perspective. Confused? Let me explain with an example from the life of the prophet Hosea.
A good plan for Hosea would have been to marry a respectable woman who could support him in his ministry as a prophet of God; God’s best was for him to marry a woman with a known reputation and then, after she had been unfaithful, to take her back. Those looking on must have shook their heads at Hosea’s assertions that God had directed him to marry Gomer. God wouldn’t do that…would He? But, in actual fact, He had! (Read the book of Hosea from the Bible if you’re not familiar with his story and how God chose to use this obedient man of God.)
Maybe God is directing you to do something hard or that may even appear to be contrary to your natural way of thinking. You might be tempted to argue with God, “I’ve got a better plan.” It’s then that we must resist the urge to choose our own good plan, determined by our own natural common sense, in place of God’s best plan, determined by His omniscience (He knows everything), omnipotence (He is all powerful) and His omnipresence (He is everywhere all at once and transcends time). Our perspective is that of looking through a pinhole…all eternity is set before God and He knows every detail.
Bottom line? Trust God! Make certain that you’re struggle to make a decision isn’t simply you resisting to follow through on what God is calling you to do just because it doesn’t line up with your predetermined plans. God’s ways are often mysterious and it’s only after our obedience that He reveals the ‘why.’
Daily Devotional – Monday, December 6, 2021
“So Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Mark 10:42-45, NLT)
How are you spending your life? In service to others or to yourself? For those who claim to be followers of Christ, there is only one correct response…we are called to become like the One we follow and practice sacrificial giving. But the contrary message of the world also pulls hard on us and we can find ourselves giving, but lacking in generosity or even begrudging the need to help another.
But what does Jesus tell us secures our place in heaven with Him? We need to believe in Him, obey Him and become like Him. Jesus was never miserly. There were no ‘untouchables’ from His perspective. There was no one whom He didn’t love…fully.
Our Christian family is in need of a shake-up. The needs of people around us are ever-present…that will not change as long as we live on this sin-infected planet. My challenge for each one of us today is simply to evaluate our levels of and motivations for service. Do people see Jesus in your care for others…or is your reflection of only yourself?
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, December 5, 202
Youtube link... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQpaBN5EIyQ
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, December 5, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “The Birth of the Messiah”
Texts – Isaiah 11:1-5, Luke 2:1-7, Luke 2:8-20
When God sent His son as the Messiah, the Rescuer, His arrival went virtually unnoticed by the majority of people. And the ones who were privileged to be given a sight of the newborn king, though quick to share the news, were quickly disregarded for the unbelievability of their message.
Today, we’re going to examine the birth of the Messiah…probably the best-known story contained in the Bible, outside of creation…but a story nonetheless that is often oversimplified and misunderstood. Let’s begin with the promise God made to David…that his would be an everlasting dynasty and from him would come the greatest king of all—the Messiah.
Isaiah 11:1-5 – “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot--
yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him--
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 He will delight in obeying the Lord.
He will not judge by appearance
nor make a decision based on hearsay.
4 He will give justice to the poor
and make fair decisions for the exploited.
The earth will shake at the force of his word,
and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
5 He will wear righteousness like a belt
and truth like an undergarment.”
Based on Isaiah’s description, what kind of man did the Jewish people expect the heir to David’s throne to be like? [discussion]
Jesus was most definitely a descendant of King David and Bathsheba—both on Mary’s side and Joseph’s. Matthew lists the descendants of Abraham through to Joseph and has Jesus’ lineage pass through Solomon, David’s son who succeeded his father to the throne. Luke’s account on the other hand, passes from Adam to Mary and demonstrates a lineage that passes through Nathan, another of David and Bathsheba’s sons. There is no question, Jesus came from the right blood line…but the right pedigree? Far from it!
Jesus was born to ‘nobodies’ from a backwater town known as Nazareth. The region of Galilee was viewed by those who lived in Judah much the same way that people from the country, or ‘hicks,’ are sometimes viewed by those from cities…‘nothing good comes from Nazareth’ (John 1:46) was the attitude of many. And everyone from Mary and Joseph’s hometown knew what kind of people they were…she had gotten pregnant before they were properly married! Mary and Joseph might both be able to trace their ancestry back to King David, but surely God would not provide His promised Messiah through an illegitimate union. Never mind that Matthew assures his readers that Mary’s virginity is certain because Joseph refrained from having sexual relations with his wife until after Jesus was born (1:25); the gossip wheel had been set in motion years before. Not to mention their lack of resources. Would the Messiah, the future king, not need all the ‘advantages’ wealth could provide in His upbringing to prepare to rule the nation? All the things Mary and Jospeh would not be able to provide.
The choice of Mary and Joseph as the parents of the Messiah, entrusted in His upbringing, made no sense at all from a human standpoint. A future king should be born to a king…not a carpenter and his teenage wife! Surely the Messiah’s parents would need wealth and positions to ensure that their son received the very best in preparation—including religious, academic and vocational training, opportunities to lead and influence over others. What could the son of a carpenter hope for? No, in the eyes of the world His prospects remained slim…especially considering His place of birth.
“THE PLACE OF HIS BIRTH”
Luke 2:1-7 – “At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”
Yes, Jesus, the Messiah, was born in Bethlehem, David’s royal city, but in a barn…nothing remotely close to being suitable for royalty. I don’t think we fully appreciate the nativity scene…our porcelain manger figurines just can’t do it justice. For starters, we have to place ourselves in a barn, or rather yet more likely a cave or crude shelter. There are no compact hay bales from which to make a bed for the labouring Mary, just the dirt floor covered in animal feces and loose bedding. I’m certain that Joseph would have cleared a spot and thrown down fresh straw for Mary, but the birth of the Messiah happened on the stable floor…down in the muck! And in all the portrayals of Jesus’ birth the sanitizing is not reserved for the barn alone.
The night I gave birth to Shannan at the K-W hospital, 27 other babies were born. In one room, one of the labouring mothers could be heard screaming. As a woman from the middle-east she had none of the reserve that is engrained in those of us who descend from many of the countries in Europe. In our imaginations, Mary is often required to endure a few minutes of groaning and sweat-drenching labour before…tada…out pops the baby Jesus, already cleaned and wrapped. Now those of you who have never had or witnessed the birth of a child, you’ll have to trust those of us who have. Labour is excruciating, often lasting for hours, messy, even scary outside the confines of a hospital surrounded by trained staff and the luxury of pain medications, especially for a first-time mom.
And what nonsense when we teach children to sing, ‘no crying He made,’ as though a crying infant is unnatural or beneath the Son of God. Anyone who knows the first thing about newborn babies is that you want them to cry to clear out any amniotic fluids that may be blocking their airway. The scene in the stable would not have been a serene peaceful affair, but filled with the noises and smells and natural human responses that accompany such a scene. When we think of the night of Jesus’ birth, we have to take care not to rob it of its humanity and its mess in our attempts to sanitize it.
Why do you think it is that we often ‘sanitize’ the events of that first Christmas? [discuss]
We need to resist the urge to reduce the full meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice, which ended at the cross, but began at His incarnation. He fully experienced what it was to be human. The Bible does not say without reason that we have an intercessor who understands us because He was one of us. There isn’t anyone He can’t relate to…which brings me to the first visitors to the newborn Messiah—shepherds.
Luke 2:8-20 – “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.”
A heavenly chorus to announce the birth of the Messiah? Now that makes sense! Who better to make known the arrival of God’s promised Rescuer? But to shepherds? Why shepherds? There is some thought that they were considered lazy, dishonest and dirty; however, like the view of Judeans toward their cousins in Galilee, it might just be that they were on the bottom of the societal ladder and were viewed as inferior by their fellow Hebrews. When God chose to extend an invitation to visit the stable-turned-nursery it was to those on the hillside at night working to care for their sheep…to the working poor.
One of my greatest pet peeves with modern day depictions of the night of Jesus’ birth is the presence of the wisemen and at times the absence of the shepherds. It’s like, subconsciously, we wish to give Jesus the greeting we feel is right for a king. The gifts of the kings are given more importance than the visit by the shepherds. How often have I seen the Nativity crèche with only one lonely little shepherd, a lamb slung over his shoulders, and three bejeweled wisemen kneeling and/or standing around the manger? This is an entirely inaccurate portrayal. While the shepherds were given a front row seat to the night of Jesus’ birth, it would take close to two years for the wisemen to follow the light of the star that began to shine the night that the angels sang their song to the shepherds.
The kings’ arrival with gold, frankincense and myrrh is fortuitous—God’s perfect timing. I am certain that their gifts were put to good use when Joseph was forced to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt from Herod’s murderous attempts to eliminate this new king. But we need to be careful not to reduce the full impact of God’s choosing shepherds, rather than royalty or the wealthy or even those considered ‘desirable’ from a human perspective as His guests of honour.
What message was God sending through His choice? [discussion]
So, on this second Advent Sunday of love, what are our takeaways?
· The message should be clear…God has no favourites! From His choice of Jesus’ parents, to the place of the Messiah’s birth, to His first invited guests to visit His Son…God will accept and can use anyone.
· When God sent the Messiah, His Son, He did not work in such a way that made sense from a human perspective. He turned what we consider the natural order of things on its proverbial head and showed us His plans…plans that stood in stark contrast to what the people were expecting.
· Could the same thing be true of Jesus’ return? Many got it badly wrong as they prepared for the coming of the Messiah. Might we be holding to wrong-headed ideas about His return? Just a question worth pondering that we will discuss in more detail on the fourth Sunday of Advent.
· God’s plans and answers to prayer often do not look like the solutions we deem most desirable; we pray for one thing and He answers, but not in the way that we had thought or hoped. One thing is certain, however, even in the face of our not knowing, we can trust the One who knows all. It was true for the first century Hebrews and it is true for us today.
For further study…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OLezoUvOEQ (The Bible Project – Luke 1-2)
Sunday, December 12, 2021- “The Work of the Messiah” 3rd Sunday of Advent – Shepherds/Peace - In-person and Online
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional – Thursday, December 2, 2021
"Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:7, NLT)
The more I contemplate the idea that our spiritual lives can be viewed in light of plant growth, the more I realize just how perfect an analogy it is. For instance, without the sun life on our planet wouldn’t exist; likewise, without the Son, Jesus, no spiritual life exists. Plants must be rooted into good soil to flourish; the Bible is God’s perfect soil, containing the nutrients for spiritual growth. However, without water a plant will die even if in perfect soil, because it needs the liquid to draw up the essential nutrients; much like the Holy Spirit, who teaches us the deeper meanings contained in God’s Word, that we simply cannot fathom on our own. A plant needs sun, soil and water to thrive; we, too, need time spent with the Son, rooted in the soil of scripture, with regular submission to the Holy Spirit so that He can do His amazing work of transformation in our lives. Long story short…if you want to grow spiritually mature in your Christian faith, you need to spend time with God in prayer, you need to spend time reading and studying His Word, and you need to live in obedience to the voice and work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Today, be a good plant and let your roots grow down deep into Him!
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!