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)
"So I hated life, because the work that is wrought under the sun was grievous unto me; for all is vanity and a striving after wind. And I hated all my labor wherein I labored under the sun, seeing that I must leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he will be a wise man or a fool? yet will he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have showed myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity. Therefore I turned about to cause my heart to despair concerning all the labor wherein I had labored under the sun. For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, and with knowledge, and with skilfulness; yet to a man that hath not labored therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil. For what hath a man of all his labor, and of the striving of his heart, wherein he laboreth under the sun? For all his days are but sorrows, and his travail is grief; yea, even in the night his heart taketh no rest. This also is vanity. There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I? For to the man that pleaseth him God giveth wisdom, and knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that pleaseth God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind." Ecclesiastes 2:17-26, ASV
I spent the weekend at my favorite camp, at a retreat designed for women who like to be creative. They plan multiple opportunities to learn new crafts and provide space for those who want to work on their own things. The weekend is meant to be relaxing, as they offer other things like facials and back massages and a quiet place to just "be." I try to go every year. Sometimes I take my own project, sometimes I try theirs. One year I did nothing but read. There are trails to hike, a creek to visit and places to just be quiet. There are plenty of opportunities to spend time with the other women, whether we are struggling to learn something new, sharing a meal or just sharing stories of our lives.
There are several devotional times, too, to remind us to stop and breathe and listen for God. We were created in His image as creators and He invites us into His presence in our work, to use our gifts to create something that will glorify Him and make the world a more beautiful place. We can certainly jump into our work and do our projects without that quiet time, but how much better is it to listen to the voice of the God who made us creative and gave us our gifts? How much better can we glorify Him by doing what He calls us to do, and how will we ever know what He's calling us to do if we do not listen to Him?
I took my own project this year. During Lent I painted forty paintings, one a day, as a spiritual and artistic endeavor. I wanted to do something with the paintings even though I did not like them all. Each one, good or bad, taught me a lesson and I wanted to keep them together in some way. So I found instructions on the Internet for binding single pages into a book. I bought what I thought I needed and took it with me to this weekend. I also signed up for a class. Though we are under no obligation to be at the other activities like the devotional times, those times are given to us as a gift, so that we have the opportunity to be aware of His presence and hear His voice.
We get so caught up in our work that we forget that rest is a gift and a necessity. The schedule for previous years included time on Sunday to continue our crafts, and while it was possible to get a few minutes here and there to work on our projects, those brief moments were not enough for some of the projects. Some projects require longer times of focused attention and constant breaks lead to mistakes. I was happy that I finished my project Saturday, but felt for the other crafters who were trying to finish sewing projects.
I was thankful that I did not need to rush through finishing my work on Sunday. We work so hard and pursue all our activities whether they are for pleasure or to sustain our lives, and it is very important that we take time to stop and breathe. We complained a bit about the schedule, but as we talked about Sabbath rest at our devotion on Sunday it began to make sense to me. The writer of Ecclesiastes, possibly Solomon, understands that it does not good to work constantly if we aren't spending time in the presence of God. Everything we collect from our work is vanity if we do not give thanks to God for His gifts and provision for us. Everything we collect will be left behind for those who follow us; all we have in eternity is our relationship with the Father who created us and who calls us to spend time with Him each week so that we will know Him now as we wait to dwell with Him later.
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"But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, did it not remain thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power? How is it that thou hast conceived this thing in thy heart? thou has not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down and gave up the ghost: and great fear came upon all that heard it. And the young men arose and wrapped him round, and they carried him out and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much. And she said, Yea, for so much. But Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to try the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them that have buried thy husband are at the door, and they shall carry thee out. And she fell down immediately at his feet, and gave up the ghost: and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all that heard these things." Acts 5:1-11, ASV
Some of the stories in the scriptures are hard to bear, like this one. We are bothered by the idea that Ananias and Sapphira keeled over dead because they didn't give the profits from the sale of their land to the church. There are those who would interpret this story as a command to vows of poverty and that anything less is less than faithful to God. In the days of the early church, the believers shared everything. They lived in community, ensuring that no one was hungry or cold. Those who had more gave food and clothing to those who had less. There were some members who were even selling property to help the church.
The story before this one is about a man named Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, also called Barnabas. His name meant "Son of Encouragement." He sold a field and took the money and laid it at the feet of the disciples. He is the example of a faithful, giving disciple. Then we hear the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Seemingly encouraged by Barnabas, the couple sold a piece of property and laid an offering at the feet of the apostles. This story is different, however, because Ananias and Sapphira willfully withheld some of the profits. You might think as you read these stories in tandem that they really were struck down for their lack of generosity. The truth, however, is revealed in the following verses the truth. They lied to God.
Can you imagine the scene? Barnabas, out of the generosity of his heart, gave the church a great gift. Though I'm sure he did not desire any attention for his gift, he was probably honored for it. Human beings are imperfect, we all sin; in this case, the sin of Ananias and Sapphira was a desire to have the attention heaped on them. They weren't being generous; they were putting on a show, competing with Barnabas. They didn't get away with it because the Holy Spirit revealed their deception. Peter asked why Ananias why they lied and then reminded them that they were under no obligation to give it all. We are asked to give as we are led and able. Ananias lied to God and the very revelation of his sin struck him dead.
The story is made even clearer when Peter confronts Sapphira. She didn't know what happened to her husband, so when Peter asked if they sold the land for that amount, she continued in the conspiracy and said, "Yes." She lied, too. And the revelation of her sin struck her dead.
God did not cut down Ananias and Sapphira because they kept some of the money for themselves. They died because they lied to God. The revelation of their sin cut them down immediately. If they had gone to the apostles and said, "We sold our property and this is a portion of the proceeds," Peter would have gratefully received the money and used it to glorify God. However, Ananias and Sapphira wanted to have their cake and eat it too.
This might be a story about financial resources and generosity, but it is even more so a story about truthfulness. Do you make claims about your faithfulness in word and deed before men, but in your heart you are hiding something? How many of us claim to love all our neighbors and yet harbor anger in our hearts? How often do we make confession but hide the very sins that destroy relationships and community? We won't be struck down as Ananias and Sapphira, but aren't we buried by our sin? Aren't we destroying our relationship with God when we try to hide the very things that He knows even more intimately than we do? God knows our hearts and He is calling us to be truthful. One lie might not seem very bad, but one lie leads to another. It becomes easier to put on the show and yet that show builds a wall between you and the God who forgives. The lies show a lack of faith and without faith there is no relationship with God. That's true death.
Jesus Christ died so that we would be freed from sin and death. He didn't die to force us to give all our stuff away. He has sent the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love, generosity, grace and mercy for our brothers and sisters. He wants us to give it all, but He does not require it and He won't strike us dead if we don't share everything. He does not require a vow of poverty or a tithe of one hundred percent. He has given some, like Barnabas, an extraordinary faith and gift of generosity and he stands as an example. However, we should never put on a facade of generosity to compete against others. We have our own gifts and God will lead us in the use of those gifts if we are willing and honest and faithful.
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.
Scripture on this page taken from the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain. Some scripture on this site taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
As you may be aware, I also write a weekly devotional on Wednesday called "MIDWEEK OASIS." For those of you who are familiar with lectionary scripture sources, MIDWEEK OASIS is based on the 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. We are now using the lectionary for our A WORD FOR TODAY texts. This devotional is posted on Wednesday, at both A WORD FOR TODAY and 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