Daily Devotional - 19 August 2020
“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:13).
We all want to receive mercy from God, but I was challenged this morning with an idea that appears in Luke 17-18 not once, not even twice, but three times in quick succession–do we ever play the role of hindering others from receiving the mercy of God that we so desperately want for ourselves?
Lepers of Jesus’ day were considered untouchable. Once a person was diagnosed with this skin disease they were forced out of the community. They had to stay a distance from people and if others came near they were to yell the warning, “Unclean! Unclean!” They were stripped of their humanity and were treated as a threat carrying a disease that could contaminate everything they came near to. In the Gospel of Luke, we read of an occasion where Jesus was spotted by ten of these men who had joined together for support. Jesus had just entered a town and the men shouted out from a distance for Jesus’ help. They dared not come close. Jesus instructs them to show themselves to the priests and as they are on their way each is miraculously healed. Society had told them to stay away, but Jesus had healed them and made a way for them to once again regain their humanity. They had received His mercy.
A short time later, we are introduced to another group who is being refused access to Jesus. This time it is parents with their children. These parents wanted to have Jesus bless their children, but the disciples saw this a frivolous intrusion on their Master’s time and scolded them. The Messiah doesn’t have time for a bunch of kids!...or does He? Jesus sees what is happening and His disciples are soundly rebuked, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it” (Luke 18:16-17). Jesus validates the parents’ desire, elevates the worth of children and provides a new perspective for His followers concerning who is worthy of His attention.
And the third interaction involves a blind beggar. Jesus is traveling to Jericho with a large enough retinue that it gets this blind beggar’s attention. When he discovers that it’s Jesus, he calls out to Him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (18:38). Others, attempting to listen to Jesus, tell the man in no uncertain terms, “Be quiet!” Their desire to hear was more highly valued than this man’s desire for help. But rather than being cowed, he shouts all the louder. When Jesus hears him, he stops and orders that the man be brought to him. If it had been left up to the crowd–those that were following Jesus–this man would have never met Jesus despite his having just passed by. Jesus intentionally makes these others bring the man to Him in order to demonstrate His great mercy–the man is healed and receives his sight.
In each of these three cases, it was Jesus’ followers who proved to be the greatest barriers to others’ access to Jesus. While the crowds and disciples feared the lepers, had no time for children and were impatient with the blind beggar’s intrusion, Jesus responds very differently. As current disciples of Jesus, do we notice those around us looking for a touch from the Saviour or have we, too, become overly focused on having Jesus meet our needs? Are we guilty of turning a blind eye and even refusing access to the One who wants us to extend His mercy to others? Something to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us...
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional - 5 August 2020
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31).
We’ve all known someone, who despite professing faith in God, has at some point turned away; people, who despite appearing to have a solid belief in Jesus, have chosen to reject what they had once held so firmly too. Maybe that person is the person we see looking back in the mirror at us. What happened? We hear lots of reasons, but I think that the main one is disappointment with God–He didn’t come through when we needed Him to or in the way we expected Him to. I would suggest that whenever we have been disappointed with God, He is not the problem, but rather a misunderstanding on our parts. For an example, let’s take a look at Peter.
Peter was called by Jesus to follow Him...and after seeing the miraculous catch of fish, Peter hadn’t hesitated. When Jesus asked the disciples who they thought He was, Peter declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). When Jesus had predicted that all the disciples would desert Him, Peter was adamant in his loyalty, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you" (Matthew 26:35). He was a member of Jesus’ inner circle. He was with Jesus when Elijah and Moses appeared–he saw Him transform and heard the voice of God, “This is my Son, listen to Him”...and was terrified (Matthew 17). He was one of Jesus’ closest friends, and in His time of anguish, Jesus asked him to lend his support in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37-38).
But it was during this time in the Garden of Gethsamane that Peter had his first real taste of disappointment with God. Judas Iscariot, the traitor, kissed Jesus in greeting; this was the prearranged signal between Judas and those who were going to arrest Jesus, identifying which man they wanted. Peter, sensing his time to act had arrived, pulled out his sword and sliced off the ear of the high priest’s slave. He was fully prepared to put his earlier declaration to action–he was willing to die for Jesus. But what happened next, left him confounded. Jesus rebukes Peter and tells him to put away his sword and then turns and heals the injured man. Jesus doesn’t even try to resist his capture! At this point all the disciples scatter...these men who only hours earlier had pronounced their willingness to engage in a battle to the death for the Messiah, scrambled away as they came to realize that the fight they thought they had signed up for wasn’t going to happen.
Over the next 24 hours they would see the Messiah, the promised Rescuer, the One who they were counting on to overthrow the Romans in a glorious battle and assume the position of King over the Jewish nation...die. How could this be? This was not what they had assumed would happen. Jesus had told them He had come to die, but they had never understood what He was telling them; they had refused to have their expectations of the Messiah derailed by the words of the Messiah. As a result, they suffered a great disappointment and were left floundering...what next? Well, for the answer to that question, you will have to wait for tomorrow’s post. But one thing I would like to leave you with, when faced with disappointment, take care not to allow your limited perspective to reject God and His plans. He is the only One who sees all and what you experience as a disappointment today, might bring about your greatest joy in the days to come...as was Peter’s experience!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional - 15 July 2020
“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them” (Romans 10:14)?
We are to be excited to share with others the great things Jesus has done. To use a current day metaphor, His should be the most shared ‘posts’ of all time! We should be ‘learning and living the Way of Jesus,’ meaning that others should be able to see Jesus reflected in our lives and hear from us directly how they can know Him too. However, there’s a problem. Too many Christians have insulated themselves from non-Christians for so long and to such a degree that we don’t even know any non-Christians or have the kind of relationship that would make someone willing to listen. How did this happen?
As followers of Jesus, who desire to live our lives faithful to His directions, we are cognizant of the fact that we still have too great a propensity to be unfaithful. We have read the words that discourage us from being ‘of the world’ and as a result have locked others out. In order to safeguard our own ability to keep in good standing with God–to live rightly–we have held others at arm’s length. The rationale appears sound, ‘if you don’t want to become contaminated by the world, you must not interact with the it.” However, there’s one huge problem. God has also called us to be ambassadors–citizens of heaven–quick to share about our new country of origin. We are to be actively engaging others. When we remove ourselves from relationships with non-Christians, we refuse to accept part of God’s terms–we are literally condemning others to hell by our lack of sharing. God forbid it! But, what to do? The simple answer is relationship.
We are not to befriend the world and adopt it’s sinful ways, yet we are still to intentionally mingle with people who don’t believe and act the way we do. Take Paul’s words for example,
“When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some” (1 Corinthians 9:20-22).
What was Paul’s advice? Find ‘common ground.’ We do not have to change and reject the Way of Jesus in order to disciple and build relationships with others; rather, we are to look for shared experiences and interests–connection points upon which to build a relationship. We cannot afford to maintain an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality–‘Christian’ vs. ‘non-Christian.’ God created every human being in His image and He wants every single one to have the opportunity to choose between accepting or rejecting a relationship with Him. Those of us who have accepted God’s terms need to recognize our own lostness without God–it is only Jesus in our lives that distinguishes us from others in God’s eyes.
Today, I would encourage us all to be intentional about building relationships–go beyond ‘Hi, how are you?’ Find common ground in order that you may be permitted to share the Way to Jesus!
~ 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)
Gospel of Peace
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes...Stand firm then...with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:11, 15).
Those of us who have chosen to become disciples of Jesus sometimes act as though we’ve been instructed to strap on the ‘seat cushion’ of ease or to slip into the ‘bunny slippers’ of comfort. The truth of the matter, however, is that we are to be ‘ready to move’ in order to share the peace we have come to experience. Once we’ve joined God’s army, our goal is not just to take a self-protective stance against the enemy, but to jump literally into the fray to rescue those who don’t know about how they can experience God’s forgiveness and join the winning side. The movie, “Hacksaw Ridge” provides a wonderful and yet disturbingly realistic analogy of what our work in the spiritual realm should look like.
The movie is based on the real life events of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector, who joined the military as a medic in World War II. He refused to carry any weapon of any kind. This notably made him a pariah with his fellow soldiers and attempts were made to have him quit the military before his training was complete. But Doss persevered. He was sent overseas with his unit and was part of an offensive that was tasked to take and secure the infamous ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ from the Japanese, who were brutally efficient in their defense of the Maeda Escarpment.
The Japanese launched an aggressive counterattack, resulting in heavy numbers of American casualties. In the midst of the offensive, Desmond runs through the enemy lines and arrives at a place of safety, only to discover that most of his unit has not. He could have scampered down the rope ladder to safety and thanked God for preserving his life. But that is not how Desmond responded to his rescue from the enemy. Throughout the long night, Desmond is heard praying over and over again, “Just one more, Lord...help me get just one more” as he returns repeatedly back into enemy territory searching for the members of his unit in order to carry them out one by one, hoist them over the cliff and let them down into the safety of friendly arms.
Repeatedly during that long night he put himself in harm’s way, with no weapon for protection, just his repeated prayer to God, “Just one more, Lord...help me get just one more!” Desmond Doss is the only conscientious objector to ever be awarded the “Medal of Honour” and for good reason. During the course of that one night, Desmond Doss’s heroic work to save his dying unit resulted in the rescue of 75 individuals who would have otherwise perished of their wounds or at the hands of the Japanese army.
If we could see the spiritual realm as we do the physical world around us, we might be surprised and horrified to find out how closely it resembles an active battle field. We need to open our ears to the cries of the dying and our eyes to the death and decay all around us. Rather than merely thanking God for our own rescue from an enemy who was intent on our eternal death, we need to be ready to run back into enemy territory with Desmond’s prayer on our lips, “Just one more, Lord...help me get just one more!”
~ 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!