Daily Devotional December 29th
“The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” (Ezra 3:13)
Many years ago, God made a covenant with the Israelite people. As long as they lived in obedience to Him they would prosper; however, disobedience would bring punishment. In the book of Ezra we read that after seventy years of captivity under the Babylonians–a time of God’s punishment for Judah’s latest rebellion–God had directed the new ruler Cyrus to allow all those from Israel to return to their land in order that they could rebuild the Temple. A number of the people took him up on his offer and returned. What they came home to was a monumental task and the work was completed in stages.
The first item of the Temple that was rebuilt was the altar–the one essential item required for worshiping God. Next came the foundation. But when it came time to mark the occasion of its completion, it drew mixed reactions. While some shouted for joy, many of those who had known the Temple before its destruction wept openly. Were those who celebrated with joy wrong to do so? No, God was doing something new for the nation and was blessing their progress. So, were those who expressed deep sorrow wrong? No, they were remembering what had been, were mourning its loss and their disobedience that had led up to their exile. One group rejoiced in the hope for the future; the other grieved a time gone by and the loss of what had been.
While we might be quick to encourage those celebrating to tone it down for the sake of their elders’ feelings, or to look down disapprovingly on those who can’t join in the festivities for remembering the past, the Book of Ezra contains no overtones of judgement. Each participant was impacted differently and all were permitted to give full vent to their displays of praise for what God was currently doing and/or regret for all that had been lost when the Temple was destroyed and the ensuing seventy years of captivity in a foreign land.
In someways, we should be able to empathize with the Israelites. This year has been a difficult one for many...and all the challenges have yet to be solved. It is natural to feel sorrow for the loss of so much. Others have already set their sights on 2021 as the year of getting things back into order. We now have a number of vaccines, countries have begun the process of inoculating their citizens...there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s time to celebrate. As we look to turn the page on the final page of the year 2020, it is neither wrong to express joy or to mourn our losses. What would be wrong is not to permit others the freedom to respond as they choose. Yes, we have all had to endure and adapt during this past year, but it has not impacted individuals all the same. Just as the finished foundation of the Temple drew very different responses from those who shared the experience, our transition into the New Year may come with similar reactions. The restoration of the Temple was a work that was far from complete, but the foundation was a stage finished nonetheless; overcoming the global pandemic that has affected us all this year is not over, but we are making noteworthy progress. Whether the end of this year brings you to tears of joy or sorrow, let’s not forget who it is that should get the thanks for having gotten us this far...Thank you, God!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional December 24
There was much Mary did not know about what would take place on the night her baby, Jesus, was born; but through the years she would discover the greater truths about this Son given to her to carry and raise along with Joseph. But a question remains: Do we know? The Christ-child we celebrate at Christmas time is still the Messiah for today. Born on earth...to die the man-god...raised to new life...to reign eternally in heaven! Born a king--still The KING!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the staff at Hope Chapel !
Daily Devotional December 23
“But when Uzziah had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall.” (2 Chronicles 26:16a)
How many times, as we read through the ancient kings of Judah in the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles, do we discover kings whose reigns began well, but ended in ruin?
Joash began his 40 year rule at the age of seven, having escaped being slaughtered by his own grandmother, Athaliah. Under the watchful eye of Jehoida the priest, he was faithful to serve God and even restored the Temple. But the Bible reports that once Jehoida died, Joash listened to other advisors–he abandoned the Temple, began worshiping idols and rejected the warnings of the prophets. God warned King Joash of His displeasure through Zechariah, Jehoida’s son. Joash’s response? He had Zechariah stoned in the courtyard of the Temple!
The next king, Joash’s son, Amaziah also began well but he never fully trusted God. He made unholy alliances and also turned to worshiping the idols of his defeated armies. He listened to the prophets of God when it suited him and threatened to kill them when it didn’t. At some point in his 29 year reign he gave up all pretense of serving God; his life ended at the hands of assassins.
The sixteen year old, Uzziah, son of Amaziah, found himself rising to the position of king–a position he held for 52 years. Just as his father and grandfather had done, Uzziah’s reign started off well. Unlike his father and grandfather, Uzziah never turned to worshiping idols, however, he too fell out of favour with God. It is said that, “pride comes before a fall,” and we find out just how true this statement turned out to be in the life of Uzziah. Uzziah’s fault was not in deciding to worship other gods, but in viewing himself as being above needing to follow God’s prescribed means of worship. Much to the dismay of the priests, Uzziah took upon himself the role of priest by entering the sanctuary of the Temple to burn incense. King Uzziah’s furious retort at the priests’ admonishment turned to horror as God struck him with leprosy for his disregard of God’s instructions.
Each of these kings shared a similar fault, they ‘outgrew’ their reliance on God, much the same way that a growing child outgrows his/her clothes. The shared faith that had resulted in their early successes as king was discarded as they came to rely on their own abilities and began to divert credit for their successes from God onto themselves.
They serve as a much needed warning for us as Christ-followers. When young and inexperienced, their reliance on God and obedience to Him ensured their success. But then they ‘grew-up’...and became foolish as they turned away from observing God’s laws and trusting Him for their successes. Let us never outgrow our faith in God and desire to obey Him fully.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional December 22
“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)
Our primary natural jerk reaction to unknown situations is by far to respond in fear...or at the very least caution. This year we have seen a lot of ‘jerk reactions.’ But fear is not our only natural response. I believe that two of our main motivators as the human race, which are the root cause of the majority of our problems, are fear and pride–mix the two of them together and you have trouble! Our fear can produce very different results in most people–running scared or complete denial. Our pride then kicks in demanding that our response to a potentially fearful situation has been the only correct one and all other responses must be denounced. During times that we should be coming together to solve issues, we find ourselves increasingly polarized. Haven’t we seen this scenario replayed over and over in 2020? Opposing reactions, followed by accusations and belligerence; both sides digging in their hypothetical heels.
After a brief hiatus this week from the angry commentary regarding the election in the USA, we are back at it with the announcements of virus related lock downs. Some people have expressed opinions that it is too little too late, others denigrate the response as a total over-reaction. Can I suggest a third response? As I see it, demanding complete isolation is a fear-based response to the potential of catching the illness and the possibility of dying. Flouting restrictions with rallies and the like is a fear-based response to job insecurity and a refusal to give up the comfort of the ways things were. Demanding that our way is the only right way denies the fact that there is still so much we do not yet understand. It is pride that is screaming at the top of its lungs to be heard, not wisdom. Fear based responses do not promote wholistic problem-solving.
The Bible warns us against making decisions out of fear, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). It also warns us against denying that there is a problem, “They give assurances of peace when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14b). I have always appreciated the reminder of the need for balance from Jesus, “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Don’t get taken in by every loud noise and don’t become part of the noise. Be ‘shrewd’ and ‘harmless’; ‘wise’ and ‘meek’; ‘thoughtful’ and ‘gentle.’ What we need now are the unassuming voices of reason to be heard–the voices that are often silenced in the tumult of extreme opinions. We need believers who are controlled by the Spirit’s love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control to speak up.
The way forward cannot be found in pride or fear, but rather in humility and trust...and seeking after God and His wisdom. How does your natural reaction line up with the characteristics that are to be predominant in the life of someone who has God’s Holy Spirit providing daily guidance? Let’s not settle for natural ‘jerk’ reactions!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional December 21
“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” (Psalm 68:5-6a)
Last evening’s news that the Ontario government has chosen to place the whole of the province in the grey zone beginning later this week was admittedly disappointing. Disappointing but understandable. Yes, as the Church we will need to do some ‘tweaking’ of our already limited programming, but that for me is one of my least concerns. God is not limited, therefore my access to Him is also unlimited. The restrictions we are under will change how we need to be the Church, but again, just as was pointed out in the spring, the building is not the Church; meeting together, while preferable, is not my only means for connecting with my heavenly Father nor does it represent my only means for connecting with my support group, my Christian brothers and sisters.
However, I am very concerned for one reason–there are many people who live alone or in abusive situations who have been struggling and these restrictions are going to come as a major set-back. Today, I would like to call upon each one of us who knows the love, hope and joy of God’s Spirit in our lives to reach out. Psalm 68 tells us that God places the lonely in families. How? Look in the mirror! God wants us to extend His Fatherly love to the lonely, the abused and the homeless. It’s time to look around and find someone to ‘adopt’ this Christmas...and for the duration of 2021. When life gets difficult for our ‘neighbour’ we ought to be the first ones in line to help.
Should someone reading this be one of the ‘lonely’ ones in need of a little extra care, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or someone else you know. You are not a burden...but you may be carrying a burden that is too big for you alone. And that’s one of the things we’ve been encouraged to do–to help make someone else’s life more bearable!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional December 17th
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24
The Bible tells us that we are to motivate one another in the tangible demonstrations of our faith. How? To answer that question we need to ask ourselves what our motivators are. For some of us an innate sense of duty can keep on us the treadmill of life despite how we feel; for others the idea of being called out or suffering negative consequences act as a stronger motivator. As Christians, however, laying guilt trips on others to get them to fulfill their ‘duty’ or brandishing consequences like a whip to encourage compliance really don’t belong in our retinue of motivators or motivations.
Besides the fact, what exactly are we to motivate others too? Not the fulfillment of duty or compliance, but rather to ‘acts of love and good works.’ So, what most often motivates love and goodness? Having experienced it from another first hand. This call from the writer of Hebrews to motivate one another, is really a call for each one of us to live lives busily engaged in demonstrating acts of love and good works. They should be the hallmark for how we live life.
So let me ask you...and myself too...is this how others would describe you if they were asked for a character reference–love and goodness? Someday our physical bodies will all be laid to rest–unless Jesus comes back prior to your life’s ending–and I wonder, how will our eulogies read? Will one of the things that we are remembered for be how we motivated others to acts of love and good works? For me, I pray that it is one of the things that I become increasingly known for–a Christ follower known for her loving actions and good deeds on the behalf of others. God’s goodness and love lived through His followers is one of the main ways He chooses to work. I, for one, don’t want to disappoint my Father, just as I’m sure you don’t want to either. So let’s make it our life’s ambition to motivate one another to acts of love and good works as we demonstrate God’s goodness and love each and everyday...not just at Christmas time, but all year round!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional December 16
God's gift to humanity encompasses Creation, Christmas, the Cross, Christ's promised second coming and eternity with Him for all who would choose to accept the Truth of the Gospel--God came to earth in human form; He died to pay the penalty for sin; He rose again and ascended to heaven until the time is right for His return. God's gift that we celebrate at Christmas is made all the more wonderful when seen through the eyes of the 'big picture' of God's viewpoint.
MOST WONDERFUL GIFT
Sweet babe in a manger
Parents by your side
Shepherds at the door
Angels in the sky
Such a great destiny
You have come here to fill
Designed by God’s own Will
Your life is such a gift
For all of your creation
Redeeming love, unveiled for all
God’s wonderful salvation
Though you’ve only just arrived
There soon will come a time
When you’ll be lead away
To a cross on which you’ll die
No crime will you commit
Still you will stand accused
By jealous and religious ire
Your body scarred, abused
Sweet babe in a manger
Your pain will bring true peace
Forgiveness, joy and hope
Your children now released
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional December 15th
“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.
For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” (Matthew 25:31-40)
There is a lot of noise these days about the Church being an essential service. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe the Church is essential...when fulfilling its God-given purpose. But that’s the problem. There are too many individuals and congregations that have lost sight of the essential work we are called to do. When Jesus returns, what is the work that He commends? What ensures our place among the ‘sheep?’
“For I was hungry, and you fed me.
I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.
I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.
I was naked, and you gave me clothing.
I was sick, and you cared for me.
I was in prison, and you visited me.”
We cannot earn a place into heaven through works; but our faith is incomplete if it is not tangibly lived out in service to our King, demonstrated through care of our fellow human beings. Could it be that the world does not view us as ‘essential’ because in our work to grow and connect those in the Church, we have neglected our other responsibility to those outside our four walls? I, for one, want to hear my Master’s commendation, “Well done my good and faithful servant!” But that requires that I reclaim the essentialness that God has endowed His Church with. Let’s not just demand that others recognize this status. Let’s prove it!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional December 14
“God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8)
To understand God’s incredible love for us the cradle is a good place to start, but we must continue on to the cross. What would cause God to limit His infinite self to a human form? Love. What would cause God eternal to suffer the indignities of death for sin? Love. To understand God’s love for us in its fullest context we must consider the whole of Scripture. When we begin to grasp the breadth of it, it should truly leave us breathless.
G O D
…Who was not created, but who has always been and forever will be
…Who was not taught, but knows and sees all
…Who was not assisted, but created all that exists
C H O S E
…To be born as a baby, limiting himself to complete helplessness
…To be taught by imperfect parents who had little to offer him but their love
…To be assisted by men of cruel intent in order to fulfill his life’s purpose
S O T H A T W E M A Y
…As flawed as we are, be made perfect
…As sinful as we are, be made pure
…As insignificant as we are, know Him in all His Fullness
This is why we celebrate:
G O D C H O S E , S O T H A T W E M A Y !
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional December 10
“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15)
How do we respond to discouragement? There is definitely a right way and a wrong way. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, provides us with an example of the right way. 2 Chronicles tells of an incident where King Jehoshaphat needed help; the people of Judah found themselves in a desperate situation. A great army consisting of men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir had assembled and were readying themselves to attack Judah. There is no foreseeable way for King Jehoshaphat and the people to defend themselves against this vast army. To say that Jehoshaphat was discouraged is a bit of an understatement. But, he responds in the best way possible, “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him” (2 Chronicles 20:3-4).
As they asked God what they should do, God’s Spirit came upon Jahaziel who spoke words that brought encouragement–God decreed that He had taken Judah’s side and He was going to personally take care of the problem Himself. He explains, “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you” (v.17). God didn’t need them to help, but He wanted them to be there to witness the rescue He was going to engineer on their behalf. Jehoshaphat’s response is an example for all of us to follow. After hearing this word, “Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord” (v.18). He didn’t know how God would work this miracle, but he didn’t doubt that He would; and worshiped God for the assurance He had that God would make good on His word.
As it turns out, the allied nations ended up killing one another. In obedience to God’s directions, King Jehoshaphat lead out his army, he “appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever’” (v.21). And in response the Bible tells us that God set out ambushes, which caused the enemy forces to attack and annihilate one another. By the time the king and people come upon the army, all that was left was dead bodies...and so much plunder it took four days to haul it all away.
So what can we learn from King Jehoshaphat when it came to his response to discouragement? When feeling alarmed and anxious it’s time to do serious business with God–pray, fast, trust, praise and worship. We need to take our focus off of ourselves and the situation, and place it firmly on the One who can and will make a way. This does not guarantee that we will never suffer disappointment, but it reminds us of where our hope should be firmly based...not on ourselves, but on our Lord God Almighty!
~ Pastor Jane
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!