You are welcome to use the writings on these pages or pass them on to others who might find a touch from God in the words. Our purpose is always to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world. Please remember to give credit to the Author who has given you everything, and keep in remembrance the vessel which He used to bring these words to you. We pray that this site may be a blessing to you and anyone with whom its been shared. All rights reserved. Peggy Hoppes
Christian Bible Study Pages
Travel PagesSalisbury Plain
Our Lord is so good, He grants us many blessings. We can see Him in the daily course of events, in our homes, our jobs, our lives. I pray that these words help you to grow in your faith and recognize His hand in even the most mundane circumstances.
The picture to the right is of a Celtic Chapel located in Cornwall England. This building is approximately 1700 years old, and contains a holy well known for its healing powers.
(Click for enlarged)
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls, and doesn’t have another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have warmth; but how can one keep warm alone? If a man prevails against one who is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, WEB
We don’t trust one another. Now, the Bible makes it clear that we should not trust in men. “Thus says Yahweh: Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from Yahweh.” (Jeremiah 17:5); “Stop trusting in man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for of what account is he?” (Isaiah 2:22); “Don’t put your trust in princes, each a son of man in whom there is no help.” (Psalm 146:3) All human beings are sinful, and thus not completely trustworthy. The point of the scriptures is that we are to trust in God alone because other people will disappoint us.
However, we can’t live in this world as islands; we need other people. Yet, the numbers of the trust factor are unbelievable. According to an article I read, only 36% of people trusted the grocery cashier. Only 30% trusted handymen. Only 22% trusted their garbage collector. On the upper side, only 73% trusted their family doctor, 69% clergy and only 64% teachers. The number of people trusting police is 64%, although if you listen to the news, you’d think that number is high. It seems like few people trust the police these days. Only 55% trust their next door neighbor. Only 49% trust their hairdresser. We don’t always have a choice about who will serve us, but if I didn’t trust my doctor or my hairdresser, I would certainly look for another. And how do you live in community if you don’t trust your neighbor?
The writer of the article told a story about a trip to the grocery store. The man at the cash register didn’t trust the cashier and when something showed up on the screen that he didn’t understand, he blew up at her. As it turned out, it was a savings he received from using his store card, but he thought it was a charge. “Why are you charging me that extra amount?” he yelled. He was so upset that he didn’t even let her explain. The other customers were very uncomfortable with the encounter, and it ruined the poor cashier’s confidence. He had so little trust in the cashier that he saw only the possibility that she was doing something wrong.
The trouble with this lack of trust is that we don’t see the goodness of our neighbors. We think everyone is out for self, that’s why we don’t trust that they will do what is right for us. And yet, how often do we prove our compassion? If there is a natural disaster, we are quick to make donations or rush in to help. It doesn’t seem like people care very much when you are at the grocery store and is seems like the other shoppers are completely unaware that there are other shoppers, and yet there are people who do kindnesses. It is hard to see the person who waits patiently when others are just pushing their way through the aisles. It is hard to see the person with a kind smile when so many are grumbling. Yet, I know that there are tall people willing to reach me the box on the top shelf and shoppers who move so that I can get through the aisle. Kindness is there, we just have to look for it.
When we look for the goodness in our neighbors, we realize that the reasons we do not trust are far outweighed by their kindness. The little old lady who grumbles at the kids for getting into her petunias makes a fantastic blueberry cobbler she takes to the fire station. If you knew that about her, would you complain about her to your other neighbors, or would you see how you can make life more livable for her in her home? Imagine what good you could do together if you helped her with her mission to fill hungry fireman bellies?
Our faith belongs to God alone, and it is Him only we can put our trust and confidence for salvation. Yet, we need our neighbors. We can’t live well if we don’t trust the person at the cash register because we are so busy stressing over what they might be doing wrong that we don’t see how they are doing their best. They aren’t perfect; the make mistakes. Don’t we all? We need to learn that mistakes happen and that they aren’t always on purpose. As a matter of fact, they are usually not on purpose. Trusting others will mean that we will be hurt because there are a few in this world who will take advantage of us. We should beware and remember that the only truly trustworthy One is our God. However, as the scripture for today reminds us, we are stronger if we work together to make this world a better place. Two are greater than one and three can’t be broken. We need one another, so let’s start living in a way that appreciates others for what they have been called to do, encouraging them and trusting that they will serve us to the best of their ability.
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Scriptures for Sunday, June 24, 2018, Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Job 38:1-11; Psalm 124; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41
“Our help is in Yahweh’s name, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 124:8, WEB
Bruce and I listen to a radio station in the car on our way to church on Sunday that plays repeats of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 radio program from the 1980’s. We are generally familiar with most of the music and the groups from that time period. For me it was when I was in high school and college and when I was a disc jockey. Bruce was in the military. We play a game to see who can be the first to guess the year of that particular Top 40 list. We can usually get pretty close. There are only ten to choose from but it is still hard sometimes, especially when we don’t remember the songs. Bruce can often identify songs by where he was stationed at the time; I remember songs that I used at work or that were part of school events. We ask ourselves, “Where was I when that was popular?” and it usually works.
Every generation has a “Where were you” question. Where were you when Pearl Harbor was bombed? Where were you when JFK was shot? Where were you when the astronauts walked on the moon? Where were you when the Challenger exploded? Where were you on 9/11? People can generally remember where they were when these history changing moments happened, or at least where they were when they heard about it.
For those of us in the military, and other transient communities, knowing where we were helps us to remember when something happened. Where were we when Zack broke his finger? Where were we when we bought that piece of furniture? We can ask the question about more personal events, too. Where were you when you met your spouse? Where were you when you proposed? Where were you married? Where were you when you decided what you wanted to be when you grew up? Where were you when you became a Christian? Knowing where we were helps us to remember when it was.
The question is also used in the courtroom. A lawyer will ask the defendant, “Where were you on the night this crime happened?” The question is meant to establish an alibi for the accused. Other questions might help place the defendant at other crucial moments, like when a gun was purchased. The lawyer is trying to prove that the defendant could not be guilty because he or she was not there. The questions might be asked by the prosecutor, too, as he or she tries to put the defendant in the right place at the right time, thus proving them guilty.
God asks this question of Job in today’s passage. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” In this case, the question is meant to establish that Job has no right to question the will and purpose of God. Job was not even a glimmer in his mother’s eye when God spoke the creation into existence. God was before the beginning and will be after the end. Human beings are simply unable to know or understand everything about the God we worship. He wouldn’t be worthy of worship if we could.
It is especially hard when God allows terrible things to happen in our lives. We want to be angry. We want to go to court with God, to question Him, to insist on answers to our questions. But God reminds us that we weren’t there when He established the foundation of the earth and we’ll never fully understand Him. What seems to be bad from our point of view may lead to something beyond our imagination. We know that God is faithful. We can rest in God’s promises even when it seems like things are falling apart. Where were we when God laid the foundations of the earth? We did not yet exist in the flesh, but we were loved. Of this we can be sure.
Poor Job. Job was a righteous man who had fallen prey to the adversary. He lost everything; he lost his wealth, his health and his family. The book describes his lament and shows us how even the most righteous can find themselves in the midst of a storm of doubt and uncertainty while undergoing suffering. Job comes to the point of blaming God for his troubles, a response to the questions raised by his losses. “Where was God? How could the Almighty allow this to happen to me? Why?”
I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t uttered those words at some point in their life. We all wonder where God is when we are facing some desert, darkness, sickness or storm. When a tornado destroys and entire town or a gunman shoots a dozen victims at a school, we ask why God didn’t do something to stop it. When cancer destroys someone we love or we face unemployment because the company can’t survive the economic conditions of the day, we wonder how God could allow it to happen. Why would we be any different than Job? If he could doubt, we can, too.
We forget that God has the power to control the world around us because He laid the foundations long before we were born. Instead of trusting in Him, we try to control the world with our own strength, and we fail. When we suffer the consequences of our faithlessness, we blame God. We worry. We are afraid. We are desperate. It is when we are desperate that we finally remember God; it is then that we cry out to Him. Thankfully, He hears us and answers. He hasn’t abandoned us. He hasn’t been sleeping. He is there, always ready to save us.
Today’s Gospel lesson is the perfect example of how we might not trust even when God is present in our midst. After all, Jesus was right there and yet the disciples were afraid. They couldn’t believe that Jesus would sleep through the storm. I have a hard time understanding it, too. I do not sleep well, even under the best of circumstances. The threat of storms can keep me awake for hours. Jesus was in a relatively small vessel on a dangerous lake during a powerful storm. It seems impossible that He could sleep. They were afraid that they would die, but Jesus had no fear. He had a peace that gave Him the freedom to rest in the midst of the storm.
The Gospel story is preceded by a discourse of parables about the kingdom of God; we’ve heard a few over the past few weeks. Jesus was sitting in the boat speaking to the crowd that had gathered to listen. The boat was His platform because there were so many people. He spoke about the kingdom in terms the people might understand: the growing seed and the mustard seed, the sower who cast seed that fell on different types of ground. He said, “Is the lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Isn’t it put on a stand? For there is nothing hidden, except that it should be made known; neither was anything made secret, but that it should come to light.” All these parables were given to lay a foundation of peace in the hearts of the disciples. In them we see that God is the Lord of everything and we need not worry.
The disciples were fishermen. They knew how to handle a boat. They had experienced rough seas. The Sea of Galilee is known for sudden squalls that seem to come out of nowhere. It would have been somewhat frightening to face such a force of nature, but not unheard of for men in that profession. They knew how to handle the water, the nets and their boat, to get into safe harbor.
When we study stories like this, particularly when there are questions about why Jesus did things He did, we have to wonder if God did this on purpose. Did Jesus know about the storm? Did He plan for this life lesson? When we face our own storms, we can’t help but wonder if this was part of God’s plan. This all too often brings us to the place where Job found himself: blaming God. Instead of having faith, we cry out in fear. “Where was God? How could the Almighty allow this to happen to me? Why?” Or, like the disciples on the boat we ask, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are dying?”
There is a story about a man who slipped and fell off a cliff while hiking on a mountaintop. On his way down he grabbed a branch. He was twenty feet from the top and a long way from the bottom. He feared for his life and cried for help. A booming voice spoke up, “I am here, and I will save you if you believe in me.” “I believe, I believe,” yelled back the man. “If you believe me, let go of the branch and then I will save you.” The man’s fear of death was so great he yelled, “Is there anyone else who can help?” What he didn’t know is that he was just feet from a shelf; if he let go he would land and it would be easier to save him. We don’t always believe the voice. It takes faith to let go and trust that our Lord will save us.
Israel went through many tough times. They were repeatedly defeated and sent into exile. Yet, in the end they were always saved. Today’s psalm is a song of praise that the Lord delivered Israel from her enemies. God never left His people while they hung perilously on spiritual cliffside after spiritual cliffside. It is easy to praise God after we have been saved, but throughout the course of Israel’s history, the nation constantly went looking to others for help. They turned to the strength, power and might of other nations, unwilling to be obedient to God's words. “Is there anyone else,” they asked, ignoring the truth that God is greater than even the greatest nation.
We aren’t much different than the Israelites or the disciples. When we cry for help the voice of God asks, “Do you believe?” All too often we cry back, “Is there anyone else?” because we think we know the way out of our problems better than God. Yet in hindsight we sing hymns of praise like the Psalm knowing that our help is in the name of the Lord, the Creator God who is in control. Yet we all, at too many moments wonder why God would abandon us.
Paul doesn’t wear a facade; he says what he’s thinking. He is often accused of being too blunt and arrogant. He will tell the reader what’s going on in his life if it helps the reader to learn the lesson that he intends. His claims seem like boasts, even if the claim is something bad that happened to him. He has suffered more than others. He has more to offer. He has the right message. Read enough of Paul and you might just wonder if he was the right man to be given the role of apostle.
But God doesn’t make mistakes. Paul was exactly the man He needed because He knew Paul’s heart. Paul’s words ring harshly on our ears sometimes, but perhaps he is saying exactly what we need to hear. We need to know that there is a cost to discipleship, that it isn’t an easy path to walk. We need to know that we will suffer for our faith. We need to be encouraged to follow his example to be all that God is calling us to be. We have to realize we are sinners in need of a Savior and that the Savior has called us to a roller coaster life that will have highs and lows, joys and pains, lessons to learn and to teach. God does not want us to be people who wear masks or facades, but rather people that are willing to speak what our hearts know is true. Honesty and integrity matter, and while we may not always like the man Paul, we can trust that Paul is honest and that his ministry had integrity.
I suppose we might say that Paul had no filter. Oh, I’m sure he was very thoughtful about his words, but even more so he was guided by the Holy Spirit. The very things that bother us about Paul might just be the very lessons that we need to hear most. They might just be the very things that God wants to change in our lives. Are we complaining about our suffering? Then we need to know that suffering produces perseverance, etc. Are we having trouble forgiving our neighbor? Then we need to know that forgiveness is the only way to peace. We don’t like Paul sometimes because Paul says exactly what we don’t want to hear. He doesn’t whitewash the truth; he encourages us with the truth because he has learned that the truth will set us free.
Too many Christians flock to preachers that tell them God wants them to be happy and rich and successful. We don’t want to know about the suffering that comes with faith. We want to live in the rose garden. Paul lived in a rose garden, not because his life was perfect but because he trusted God. Our peace does not come from an easy life; our peace comes from faith. It comes from knowing that in the midst of the storms of life, God is with us. We can trust that He is in control even when our world seems like chaos.
In today’s second lesson, Paul says, “Working together, we entreat also that you not receive the grace of God in vain...” During his entire ministry for Christ he faced difficulty from the Jews, from the Gentiles and from all sorts of authorities. He has a long list of sufferings to his credit. He spent time in prison. He was hungry, cold and tired. He was shipwrecked, beaten and rejected. He knew what it was like to be on the edge of death. He endured many things for Christ and for those who would come to know Him through his ministry. Through his hardships, Paul remained true to God, for with every hardship he suffered he can list an even greater virtue in which he is called to live. “...in pureness, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in sincere love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left...” Whether the circumstances were good or bad, Paul was there to share the kingdom of God with the church and the world. He faced it all with rejoicing because God could and would bring salvation to someone, somewhere at some time. Paul got it; he knew the Lord and did not live in worry or fear.
Peace comes from living thankful lives, trusting that the God who laid the foundation of the earth will bring His people through their troubles. Jesus wandered in His own wilderness, trusting that God was with Him. He faced darkness, knowing that God would light the way. He confronted the pain and dis-ease of this world knowing that God’s healing hand could make a difference. He shouted down the storm and it stopped.
How do we face our own troubles? Do we live in fear and worry, or do we thank God knowing that He is with us in the midst of them? We will experience new adventures, always facing the potential danger and pondering what lies beyond. As we do, let us learn the lesson of faith that Jesus taught the disciples that day on the lake facing the storm. Our scriptures today remind us that we were not there as God laid the foundations of the world. We may not fully understand the storms we face, and we’ll cry out to our God wondering where He is in the midst of it all.
Despite our uncertainty, God calls us to go forth in faith knowing that He is always with us, trusting that He is in control, rejoicing because He is faithful. We might experience things that we do not enjoy, but we are called to take the risks that will shine God’s light through the darkness. Though the world might see us as we often see Paul, too blunt and arrogant with no filters, we need have no fear because He will be there to provide us with everything we need to accomplish His work in the world.
At the end of our Gospel lesson the disciples asked, “Who is this?” The disciples never quite get it; they never quite get that Jesus is LORD. He is Lord of the Sea, Lord of the storm, Lord over our worries and fears. Jesus is more than just someone who can speak the parables of the kingdom of God; He lived them. We ask “Where were you?” and remember those important moments in our lives, but there is another question that Christians should ask. Our response to the difficulties of life will depend on our answer to the most important question, “Who is this?” Is Jesus Lord? If the answer is “Yes,” then trust that He isn’t sleeping. He is with you and He will carry you through all your storms.
The following links provide some specially chosen scripture that tell the stories of the Birth and Passion of our Lord as Saviour Jesus Christ, as well as a fictional perspective of the Crucifixion. Spend time in God's Word, read about His life and learn of the wonderful gifts He has for you. Know Jesus Christ and honour Him today. Thanks be to God.
When researching, I use several versions of the bible, including the New International Version and English Standard Version. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures on some of the archives, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves. Where scripture is quoted, it is usually the American Standard Version or World English Bible which belong to the public domain. Any other versions used in quotes are identified.
The devotion posted on Wednesday is based on the Lectionary texts used by millions of Christians each Sunday. The Lectionary consists of four texts: an Old Testament passage, a Psalm, a passage from one of the Epistles and a Gospel text and follows the church calendar. Archives for these writings are found at Midweek Oasis.
You are welcome to use these words to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. Please remember to give credit to the Author who has given you these gifts, and keep in remembrance the vessel which He used to bring them to you. We pray that this site may be a blessing to you and anyone with whom you've shared it. Peggy Hoppes