Hope Chapel Blog
Learning and living the Way of Jesus!
Daily Devotional 17 Sept 2020
“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming...You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected” (Matthew 24:42,44).
Have you seen the signs? It’s coming! And whether we are prepared for it or not, its impending arrival will not be delayed. The signs are all there and increasing daily. The temperature has plummeted, the yellows, oranges and reds are beginning to ‘pop’ and the seeds for next year’s growth have begun to spread in preparation for their upcoming months of dormancy. Winter is on its way! As Canadians we all know the signs, whether we look forward to or dread the cold and snow that is winter.
And soon the preparations will begin...changing the tires on our vehicles, closing up our summer retreats, tarping or otherwise covering shrubs and AC units, insulating windows and calking cracks...and let’s not forget digging out all of our winter attire. If we put these items off, we run the risk of having the first snowfall catch us off guard. It’s a game of chance we Canadians often play with winter...not wanting to make preparations too early should winter hold off and we enjoy an extended autumn. Sometimes the gamble pays off and sometimes we regret our procrastination.
The Bible also speaks of an event that will be preceded by signs...
Daily Devotional - 9 September 2020
“Lord save us! We’re going to drown” (Matthew 8:25b)!
What word best describes you in the middle of a ‘storm?’ Peaceful or panic-stricken? Do you continue on nonplused by the chaos that threatens to upend your life or do you jump into one of two more common response modes–immobilization or improvisation? How you respond says a lot about where you place your trust. As Christians we talk about trusting God...a lot! But do we actually know what it looks like. Today, I am reminded of the story found in Matthew 8:23-27.
Matthew provides us with a first hand account of what took place on the Sea of Galilee. After a long day of ministering to people’s needs, Jesus instructs the disciples to get in their boat and sail to the other side. As they’re on the water, a fierce storm suddenly blows up and they find themselves in a fight to keep the boat aright and from filling up with water. Their first instinct is what I’ve dubbed improvisation. When the storm blew up, they did what came naturally–they rowed and they bailed water. They were relying on their own ability to fight the storm. But it became obvious that their efforts would not be enough to land them on the other side, so they quickly flip to the next common response, immobilization, as the fear of the storm took hold. In desperation they wake Jesus up...that’s right...through all the turmoil and chaos they find Jesus peacefully asleep!
Hope Chapel Daily Devotional
"Has my arm lost its power? Now you will see whether or not my word comes true!" (Numbers 11:23).
Sometimes we as Jesus’ disciples and even spiritual leaders need reminders of who is really in charge. Such was the case for Moses as we read what was happening in Numbers 11. The Israelites were once again engaged in their favourite pastime...whining! Their current complaint? They wanted meat to eat. God had been providing manna for over a year for the people. “The manna looked like small coriander seeds, and it was pale yellow like gum resin. The people would go out and gather it from the ground. They made flour by grinding it with hand mills or pounding it in mortars. Then they boiled it in a pot and made it into flat cakes. These cakes tasted like pastries baked with olive oil. The manna came down on the camp with the dew during the night” (Numbers 11:7-9). A year into their wilderness travels, however, the miracle manna had lost its luster–the wonder of the miracle had given way to contempt for the lack of variety.
Both Moses and God react to this ingratitude. Moses has had enough and tells God, “ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery” (Numbers 11:14-15)! The man known for his humility and patience has had enough. God’s response includes both a solution for Moses’ overwhelming despair and for His people’s complaint. First, Moses is told to divide his responsibilities amongst seventy other leaders, who God will empower with His Spirit just as He had Moses. Secondly, Moses is to instruct the people, “‘Purify yourselves, for tomorrow you will have meat to eat. You were whining, and the Lord heard you when you cried, “Oh, for some meat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will have to eat it. And it won’t be for just a day or two, or for five or ten or even twenty. You will eat it for a whole month until you gag and are sick of it. For you have rejected the Lord, who is here among you, and you have whined to him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt’” (11:18-20)?
In his moment of despair, Moses balks. Where is God going to get that amount of meat in the wilderness? Moses expresses his disbelief–what God has said will happen is just not possible! To which God replies, "Has my arm lost its power? Now you will see whether or not my word comes true!" (11:23). The very next day, “the Lord sent a wind that brought quail from the sea and let them fall all around the camp. For miles in every direction there were quail flying about three feet above the ground. So the people went out and caught quail all that day and throughout the night and all the next day, too. No one gathered less than fifty bushels” (11:31-32)! One bushel is roughly equal to 35 litres–you do the math!
In his despair Moses questioned the omnipotence of God. He was a man renowned for this faith, his humility, a man whom God had chosen to speak face to face with. Yet at this moment he just can’t see a way out. As God’s chosen leader of the people, he had become sick and tired of the perpetual whining in the face of God’s ever-present care. He was faced with a problem he could not fix...and saw no means of correcting it. God graciously reminded Moses of who was really in charge. God had a plan to deal with these whiners and as impossible as it sounded to conventional wisdom, Moses was reminded to trust his miracle working God and not the limitations of the present situation. What insurmountable problem are you facing today? Don’t despair, but remember God’s reminder to Moses, and our reminder from the author of the book of Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Amen!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional - 26 August 2020
“Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16).
What do you do in the face of the unexpected? Truth be told, James tells us that we should never get comfortable in our expectations–which can all change in a moment’s notice. COVID-19 should have taught us all that, with its seemingly endless reminders. We are not in control. And if we can’t even control a little thing like a virus, it really is nonsensical to think that we truly control anything outside of our ability to determine our emotional response to the ever-changing uncertainties of this life.
How often has it happened, that just when we get comfortable, the proverbial rug is ripped out from under our feet. Many things should caution us against getting overly confident in our plans, aside from pandemics–illness, change in financial situation, natural disaster, unexpected pregnancy and even death...obviously this list could be far bigger! So what’s to be done–no one can live in a state of never-ending uncertainty? We’d go crazy! The answer is to find your certainty, purpose and direction in the only stability that this universe offers–a relationship with God.
The Bible assures us that we can “Trust the Lord with our whole being; don’t rely on your own limited understanding and resources. In all aspects of your life recognize His authority, and He will show you which paths are best to follow” (Proverbs 3:5-6, my paraphrase). There’s nothing God doesn’t know, nothing He is powerless to change, no place that He is not permitted to go...but best of all, as the source of love, His plans are set for our good and for the betterment of this entire world and the people who call it home. We need to remember that our plans and expectations are never foolproof and are therefore, unreliable. God is wholly trustworthy–so place your confidence in Him–and discover the only source of assurance that is available to us in this life!
I realize that for those who have never experienced a relationship with God this may sound like complete rubbish–I’m just using the idea of God as an emotional ‘crutch.’ However, I know that I don’t stand alone in my experience. We can talk about how wonderful it is, but only those who have experienced a relationship with Jesus can understand and attest to the truth of what I say. I would challenge anyone reading this devotional to not reject it out of hand; the truth is there for anyone who asks for it.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional - 11 August 2020
“Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works” (James 2:26).
In 2018, 55% of Canadians identified themselves as Christians. A solid one in every two people believe in God. The stats sound wonderful, until we view it through our everyday context. I would almost guarantee that while one in two Canadians may say they believe in the existence of God, it would be a very different picture if we asked all the self-identified ‘Christians’ if they had a relationship with this God they believe in. A relationship with God should change us–our actions, words and thoughts. Do we follow and obey Christ, as the name implies? If not, James has a very strong warning for us.
Many people in the early church believed in God, but did not see a need to change how they lived. After all you can’t earn your way to heaven; doesn’t the idea of having to do good things to demonstrate your faith teach that your relationship with God–forgiveness, salvation, eternity–needs to be earned? Not according to James. He equated a faith in God–self-identification with Christ–as being dead if there was no proof of life. Think of it this way. If you came across an unresponsive person lying on the ground what is one of the first things you should do? Check for a pulse. When it comes to faith, a belief in God is just a body lying on the ground unless it has the heartbeat of good works pulsing through it.
James challenges the believers; what good are your nice sentiments in the face of others’ needs? “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do” (James 2:15-16)? Absolutely none! In fact, all your fine words without the provision for people’s tangible needs may work as a detriment to their accepting that your faith has any meaning at all. Nice sentiments unaccompanied by good deeds are nothing but hot air.
If anyone is still left unconvinced, James sarcastically puts it another way, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless” (James 2:19-20)? Mere belief doesn’t buy the demons any grace from God, so why do we think it is any different for us? Unlike the disobedient angels, our faith should motivate us to do work to please God because of His great love for us–not leave us trembling in terror ...or feeling smugly secure!
We are to obey to ‘royal law’–coming straight from the King himself–to “love your neighbor as yourself” (James 2:8). James cannot say it enough, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless” (James 2:17). His challenge for all of us who self-identify as Christians is to prove that our faith has a heartbeat. What good work will you do today?
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional - 10 August 2020
“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces” (Psalm 34:4-5).
The above verses were written by David during a time that fear could have absolutely consumed him–his life was in double-jeopardy. He had been brought before King Achish (1 Samuel 21) a Philistine king who knew David’s reputation and his history–here was the giant killer! David was in the process of attempting to escape from King Saul, but when he got to the city of Gath he was recognized by the leaders who were unhappy he was there, “Isn’t this David, who they sing about having killed 10,000s?” They brought him to their king; I highly doubt they asked David if he wanted to go. Were they going to kill him? Imprison him? He didn’t know, but he kept his wits about him and was granted release when he convincingly played the part of a crazy man–scratching on doors and allowing his own drool to run down his beard. Desperate times call for desperate measures! In his moment of fear and desperation, David tells us in Psalm 34 that he had asked God to rescue him and He had.
We may not fear for our lives, but our society seems permeated with fear nonetheless. We’ve put our trust in things that cannot ‘save’ us and are left attempting to grapple with constant fear–fear of change, of the unknown, of the future, of others’ opinions. And as fear takes hold, it drains us of courage and hope, replacing these life giving attitudes with anxiety and depression. Take a look around you. Anxiety and depression have quite literally put a choke hold on our North American society–a continent that has more to be thankful for than almost any other segment of our global population. As we have allowed fear and the resulting anxiety and depression to take hold, we have begun withdrawing from others, viewing them as contributors to the problem, rather than recognizing fear as the catalyst for our pervasive anxiety.
Unfortunately, in our state of fear we often panic and do not recognize true lifelines. We perpetuate our fear by attempting to safeguard ourselves; but nothing outside of God will ever help us out of our predicaments of fear–not money, not occupations, not connections. Haven’t we witnessed how a very small thing can set our entire planet into a complete tizzy? We lose our heads or jump into full-fledged denial–neither approach is helpful; both are systemic of the fear that we have. We are not in control.
When we turn to God in our desperation as David did, we are reminded, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). God’s Holy Spirit provides those who trust God with courage, compassion and self-control. In these days of uncertainty, as we continue to wrestle with the effects of COVID-19–attempting to control its spread while also attempting to alleviate the potential economic difficulties looming in our near future–we are in dire need of people who rely on God’s Spirit to overcome the fear that is threatening to sink us. It isn’t COVID-19 that will cause the greatest disaster at this time–it is our reactions to it. If we respond in fear, we have already lost; if we rely on God to help us act courageously, extend compassion and use self-control, we will be able to say with David, “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional - 24 July 2020
“For we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7)!
Many people deny the existence of God. Even more refuse to believe that Jesus was the Messiah–the one sent to rescue us. They taunt and even persecute those who profess a faith in Jesus as Saviour. A belief in heaven, forgiveness of sins or any set standard of ‘truth’ is for them entirely nonsensical. If asked, ‘What would it take to change your mind?’ many would undoubtedly answer, ‘Proof.’ But the truth of the matter is that when someone is determined to believe a particular thing, there often is no level of irrefutable proof that will suffice to change his/her mind.
I was reminded of this fact today, as I read Matthew 28. The latter half of the chapter is well-known–Jesus commissions the disciples to continue the work of the Kingdom He has begun, just before ascending to heaven with the angelic promise that He will come again in the same way. The first half is a little less known with some of the details not receiving much attention even at Easter. Jesus comes back to life! But before anyone sees Him, a great earthquake happens as an angel–whose appearance is like lightning–rolls the stone away from the front of the tomb and sits on the boulder, prepared to explain the reason for the missing body. “He’s not here! He has risen, just as He said He would.” There are two groups of witnesses to this event. We most often follow the story of the women that head off to tell the disciples this wonderful news. But they aren’t the only ones present.
Roman guards had been put in place to make certain no one tried to perpetuate the lie that Jesus would come back to life. The Pharisees had heard His pronouncement–that Jesus would be raised from the dead–and wanted to insure that none of the disciples were allowed to perpetrate any further mischief. These same guards saw the angel, saw him remove the boulder, saw the empty tomb...and had become absolutely petrified by what they witnessed. Understandably, they ran off to tell the chief priests. It was in their best interest to report these events; if they were accused of sleeping on the job, their very lives were at stake.
As first hand witnesses, still shaking with fear, the guards would have no doubt presented a believable account, albeit amazing–they obviously believed the story they told. How do the chief priests respond? Here before them is irrefutable proof that Jesus has done exactly as He predicted...He has risen from the dead...an angel of heaven has provided the evidence...He must be the Messiah. Nope! Not these guys.
Their first decision is to consult with the elders and devise a plan...a plan to quash the proof they’ve just been given. They gave the guards a ‘large’ bride to spread the story that the disciples had come in the middle of the night and stolen the body while they slept. The bribe must have been fantastic to convince them...to prevent them from sharing the amazing details of what they had witnessed and to risk punishment for ‘sleeping.’ And of course this false version of events spread simultaneously with the women’s true account of what occurred at the tomb, thus providing a narrative for those who believed and those who didn’t to shore up their opposing beliefs about who Jesus was.
What will it take to convince the unbelieving? Not proof! Those who refuse to believe the truth often dig deeper trenches of denial when faced with it. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day–the ones who had worked so hard to eliminate Him–remained adamant in their unbelief, preferring rather to perpetrate a lie than to admit that they had been wrong...that much of their belief about the Messiah had been off base...that they themselves had been guilty of killing the long awaited Rescuer.
Our faith in God must come through belief and not proofs. It is only as we submit our pride, admit our error and relinquish our need for proof–which will never suffice in the face of our rejection of it–that we will truly experience God. It is good to remember what Jesus said; “Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4). We need to stop demanding proof–which will never suffice for the one who refuses to believe; instead we need to recognize that we may in fact be wrong and open ourselves to hearing a different version of events. He is Lord!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional - 22 July 2020
“I know this: I was blind, and now I can see” (John 9:25b)!
One of my favourite Jesus stories comes from John 9, where we read how Jesus healed a blind man. Given that Jesus would later demonstrate that He was capable of raising the dead, healing a man born blind may not have seemed like such a big deal. However, the reason this is one of my favourite stories is not because of Jesus’ healing power–though that is truly incredible–it is the healed man’s response. This man has had to live his entire life up to this point in the dark. He is forced to beg to survive and to be subjected to mistreatment. Jesus and His disciples take notice of the man and he once again hears the familiar question, one that has been plaguing him for years, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins” (9:1).
It was the common supposition of the day, that if an individual was suffering, it was a direct result for sin in his/her life. Naturally, a person born blind–possibly with no eyes at all in this case, for even the disciples could tell this unknown beggar had been ‘born blind’–must have an immense amount of guilt to have to suffer in this way. Jesus’ answer confused the disciples, but lit a spark of hope in the blind man. He may have been blind, but he wasn’t deaf. He had heard about Jesus the miracle worker and here He was stating that his blindness was not as a result of sin, but “this happened so the power of God could be seen in him” (9:3b).
What would Jesus do? The text doesn’t tell us that Jesus asked if he wanted to see; it doesn’t say that the man asked to be healed. It just says that Jesus made a paste using his spit and the dirt, rubbed it over the man’s eye area, then told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam, which means ‘sent.’ The man obeys. There is no hint of hesitation. He goes to the pool a blind man and comes back seeing. And while everyone argues about whether or not he is the same beggar as the blind man they have known, he scans the crowd for the One who has given him sight. He gives testimony and full credit to Jesus for his new condition. He has never laid eyes on the Healer, but he has inexplicably experienced His touch!
He is then taken to the Pharisees. It becomes quite clear that their interest isn’t in the miracle, but the fact that it took place on the Sabbath. Work is not allowed on the Sabbath...not even healing...therefore the one who did the ‘work’ must be a sinner. Jesus, the one the man claims is responsible for his healing, cannot have acted in the power of Holy God for he is in direct disobedience to their understanding of the Old Testament law, “the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:10a).
It is the next part of the story which makes it one of my favourites. This man, born blind, is far less ‘blind’ than those questioning him. He may not have ‘seen’ Jesus, but he has experienced His touch and is ready to obey Him and recognize Him as being from God. In their spiritual blindness, the Pharisees are left groping in the theological dark. This miracle didn’t happen according to their terms and so they reject it...but still cannot deny it! But they remain adamant in their refusal to acknowledge that Jesus may have been acting in accordance to God’s Will. The newly sighted man doesn’t have any of these difficulties. He states with full confidence (and a degree of sauciness), ““Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from? We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it” (John 9:30-33).
As a reward for his faith, the Pharisees accuse him of being a total sinner, unfit to instruct them, and turf him out of the synagogue. John tells us that after Jesus heard what had happened to the man, He went out of His way to find him. Jesus introduces Himself. The man born blind now has a face to put with the name. His response is immediate; he bows down in worship. The man believed, not because he had seen Jesus for himself, but because of the work that Jesus had done in his life. His is a faith that should speak to all of us. We shouldn’t need irrefutable proofs–seeing Jesus in the flesh–to believe in Him. As His followers, we experience His work in our lives–beginning with the greatest work of receiving forgiveness and His gift of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives! That should be proof enough...it was for a man born blind.
~ Pastor Jane
“The blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor” (Matthew 11:5).
Do you remember the song lyrics made popular by the Gaither Vocal Band a number of years ago, “get all excited, go tell everybody that Jesus Christ is King?” Back in the 1970s and 80s, many of us sang this song with gusto. But how many of our lives actually reflected that excitement? Think about it. Jesus’ life created a stir, from His conception right through to his visible return to heaven. People were healed...the dead were raised back to life...the hungry were fed. And the word got out. So much so that during a period in His earthly ministry, Jesus was no longer able to travel freely. After Jesus had healed a man of leprosy, He told him not to tell anyone, but like most of us the man couldn’t keep a secret. “The man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him” (Mark 1:45).
Jesus didn’t just amaze people with miracles. He irritated the establishment to the point that they wanted to kill Him. He ignored the conventions of His day...made the Pharisees look foolish...and took it upon Himself to clear the Temple of all the merchants, dumping tables, creating chaos of their commerce. And the word got around! He became a wanted man and a price was put on His head. There wasn’t anyone in His day who had not heard of Him.
If Jesus lived in our time, living out His life as He did in first century Palestine, He would undoubtedly garner the most ‘hits’ and ‘likes’ on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter...far more than some of the stories that have become so prevalent in our day. Some would love Him. Some would hate Him. And while some would recognize His miracles as from God, others would become further entrenched in their skepticism. But there is one thing we would all share in common; we would be talking about Him!
So why aren’t we? If you are a Christian, you should know the stories, or be in the process of learning them through regular reading of the Bible. Those of us who have grown up in the Church and heard the stories all our lives can become too familiar. Yes, Jesus walked on the water. Yes, He fed 5,000 people the biggest picnic with only five loaves and two fish. Yup, He died and rose again...hold on! What was that? JESUS WALKED ON THE WATER?! JESUS FED 5,000?! HE ROSE AGAIN?! These things should absolutely astound us! Just because we can recite the stories doesn’t mean that we know them. We need to remind ourselves of just how amazing and unbelievable much of Jesus’ life was. He was no ordinary man!
Today, I would challenge anyone reading this to contemplate one of the stories of Jesus, anew. Put yourself in it. Imagine the desperation, rejection and chaos turned into joy, acceptance and order through the amazing work of Jesus. As you allow yourself to experience the story in a fresh way, allow yourself to experience the excitement that would have gone along with it. The Jesus we read about in the Bible, is still the Jesus of today. What would happen if His Church allowed Him to work freely in their lives? If we allowed the Holy Spirit to fill us up with His fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)? If we allowed ourselves to get so excited, we just had to go out and tell somebody?
The truth of the matter is that Jesus is still doing exciting work in our world today. If we really believe it, we should be telling others. There shouldn’t be a person alive who knows you that isn’t familiar with your life’s headline, “I am a follower of Jesus!”
~ Pastor Jane
Need some inspiration? Watch this clip from Episode 8 of "The Chosen,"
https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2262755974028732 (access through Facebook)
Daily Devotional - 10 July 2020
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless” (James 2:14-20)?
Martin Luther was not a fan of the Book of James; he felt it preached a message that encouraged people to earn the free gift of salvation by doing good deeds. Our salvation was purchased by Jesus alone and it is only through belief in Him that we can receive it as a free gift. Those are God’s terms and there is no other way for humans to know God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace. As a result, Luther dubbed it an ‘epistle of straw’–a letter unworthy of being included in the Bible.
Luther’s view of the Book of James is understandable considering his religious background; the church of his day had become immersed in a theology of salvation through works. The priests taught that God’s grace could be and must be earned. They had rejected the reality of humanity’s inability to obtain their assurance of God’s favour through the work of Jesus alone. I have entirely different view of this letter written by Jesus’ brother to the early church.
Times have changed and selfishness has creeped into the Gospel message, with an unhealthy focus on ‘what’s in it for me?’ We live in a day and age where faith has become a private, individual affair. We have become too accustomed to the ‘freeness’ of God’s gift and have forgotten that there is a cost to be paid–obedience. We are no longer free to live life any way we please. By accepting God’s good plan, we have chosen to follow a new ‘boss’–that’s part of the package. The free gift of salvation is realized by the disciple who continues to walk in faithfulness, living to love God and love others everyday in tangible ways. We won’t get it perfectly right every time, but that is not what is important. What counts is the day to day growing of our faith that happens as we continue to obey God through the instructions contained in His Word.
I appreciate how Billy Graham has explained it, “To have peace ‘with’ God and to have the peace ‘of’ God in our hearts is not enough. This vertical relationship must have a horizontal outworking, or our faith is in vain. Jesus said that we were to love the Lord with all our hearts and our neighbours as ourselves.
This dual love for God and others is like the positive and negative poles of a battery–unless both connections are made, we have no power. A personal faith is useless unless it has a social application...
If we have peace ‘with’ God and the peace ‘of’ God, we will become peacemakers. We will not only strive to be at peace with our neighbours, but will be leading them to discover the source of true peace in Christ. Is the peace of Christ in your life overflowing to others” (Hope for Each New Day, July 10)?
To that I would add, is the grace of God in your life overflowing to others? Forgiveness? Love? Generosity? Compassion? If not, why not? It’s time to take a fresh look at James’ warning, “faith without good deeds is useless.”
~ 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!