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)
“For in it is revealed God’s righteousness from faith to faith. As it is written, “But the righteous shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known of God is revealed in them, for God revealed it to them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse. Because, knowing God, they didn’t glorify him as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened.” Romans 1:17-21, WEB
It is the tale of two kings: Hezekiah of Judah and Sennacherib of Assyria.
Now, Sennacherib was a powerful king. He defeated the Babylonians and pushed to dominate the entire region. His official chronicles claim that he captured 46 strong walled cities in Israel and he laid siege on Jerusalem and forced Hezekiah to pay a huge tribute. He mocked God. Sennacherib sent a delegation to treat with Hezekiah’s men; they tried to convince not only the delegation but also the people to turn their backs on God. They said that Sennacherib was more powerful than any god, that he had destroyed the gods of their neighbors and if they would just submit to him, they would experience life in a land of grain and wine, bread and vineyards, olive trees and honey. There they would live and not die. Sennacherib claimed that God was angry because Hezekiah had destroyed the high places and even claimed to have been called by God to bring vengeance for that destruction.
They spoke in the language of the Jews, but Hezekiah’s delegation asked them to speak in their own tongue. They didn’t want the people who were overhearing the conversation to be confused by the words of their enemy. Sennacherib was offering both a promise and a warning. “Turn your backs on God and I’ll feed you well and give you a place to live. Stay with this so-called God and you’ll die because he has no power over me.” He had good reason to feel confident; the gods of the neighboring peoples had all been destroyed and the people had been defeated. He didn’t understand that the God of Israel is truly God and that He had chosen Assyria as an instrument of his anger.
So, yes, Sennacherib was having success expanding his kingdom, but it was not by his hand. He did not understand that his power came from God and that God held his life in His hands. When Hezekiah went to the Lord in prayer for help against the siege, God told him, “Do not worry, I will defend Jerusalem and the land will recover in the third year.” The prophecy in 2 Kings 19 ensures God’s people that He is in control and that Sennacherib will suffer the consequences of his rejection of God.
God fulfilled His promise to Hezekiah. Jerusalem was saved when an angel of the LORD struck down 185,000 of Sennacherib’s troops on the battlefield. He departed and went home lived in Nineveh. As he was worshipping in the house of his god, Sennacherib was cut down by swords wielded by two of his own sons. Another son reigned in his place.
Sennacherib was the hand of God, but he rejected the very God who gave him his power. He worshipped a false god that was no more powerful than all the gods he thought he destroyed throughout his reign. The Jews remained silent when Sennacherib’s men tried to convince them to turn their backs on their God. He saved them because they were faithful. The words of the enemy may sound good; the promises may seem true, but no one can stand against your God. Stand firm, no matter what the enemy says, because you will be blessed for your faithfulness.
Tomorrow we'll hear the rest of the story.
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Scriptures for Sunday, October 30, 2016, Reformation Sunday: Revelation 14:6-7; Psalm 46; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36
“I saw an angel flying in mid heaven, having an eternal Good News to proclaim to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation, tribe, language, and people.” Revelation 14:6-7, WEB
I went to a haunted house with a group of friends when I was a teenager. It was one of those houses at the Jersey shore filled with professional actors and rooms depicting frightening events. I entered the house a little cocky, “These things don’t scare me!” which made me a target. The minute I was in the first room of the house, a ghoul came out of a hiding place, frightened me and I quickly found myself cowering in a corner. My friends and I took off and practically ran through the house. One friend even lost a flip flop along the way; we had to go buy her a new set at one of the shops because none of us were willing to go back and find it and she couldn’t walk around the boardwalk with a shoe on only one foot.
I used to love that kind of stuff. I went to all the horror movies and decorated my house with all sorts of spooky things. When asked, I used to talk about how a little fear is healthy; it gets the adrenaline flowing and the heart pumping. A scream or two never hurt. Besides, it wasn’t real. As I got older, particularly after I had children, I stopped going out of my way to be scared. I suppose I realized that there were real reasons to be afraid in the world, and the idea of going out of my way to be afraid to get my adrenaline flowing and heart pumping just wasn’t fun anymore.
There are very real reasons to be afraid in our world. I’m not so sure that there are more reasons today, although it seems like it sometimes, doesn’t it? We are afraid of the things that will affect the world and our nation. We are afraid of the crime in our neighborhoods. We are afraid of natural disasters that can destroy our homes. We are afraid of more personal things like disease and financial ruin. The political conversation surrounding this year’s U.S. election is filled with fear. Sometimes we don’t even really know what we fear.
It seems odd, then, that the passage from Revelation would command us to “Fear the Lord.” We know that there are benefits to the fears we have about the things of this world. Fear makes us more aware of the dangers. Fear helps us to work so that we won’t lose our health or our money. Fear protects us in many ways. However, we can be so focused on fear that we don’t experience joy or hope or peace. Why would we have to fear the One who has promised to be our source for joy and hope and peace? Fear of the Lord is not the same kind of fear. It isn’t the fear we experience in the haunted house or the movie theater. It isn’t the fear we experience when we are threatened. Fear of the Lord is a reverence for the Holy One, trusting that He where we’ll find our joy and hope and peace.
Four hundred and ninety-nine years ago on October 31st Martin Luther posted Ninety-five thesis on the door of Wittenberg Church to open debate between scholars about the abuses in the Church at that time. This began a reform movement that sought to restore the Christian faith to a simpler time, to a time when the work of God, His grace, was the center of the faith.
Martin Luther was an interesting character who lived in an interesting age. Superstition was rampant. The Church and secular authorities used the fears of the people to control and to establish even greater power for themselves. They sold indulgences to raise funds to build a massive new church building in Rome and they did this by feeding the fears of hell that were held by the people. The Church was selling entrance into heaven; the only way to end up in heaven was to pay for it. The sellers of indulgences convinced the people that they could also pay for those already dead, so the poor became poorer by paying to set loved ones free from the bondage of purgatory.
People were ignorant of God’s Word, they received only what was given to them by the priests. The priests were often uneducated and heretical in their understanding of God, partly because they were ill-informed and partly because so many pagan thoughts had entered into the Christian understanding of God. It was a time of fear. Those who were faithful were so afraid of the wrath of God that they could not find peace or hope in their life. Guilt was a tool used by the Church to convince the congregation to purchase indulgences.
Martin Luther was an educated man who studied the scriptures and had a good sense of God’s love, but he so riddled with guilt that he spent hours confessing his sins and seeking forgiveness. He was afraid of so many things. He was a priest and he was afraid that if was not justified before God, then his entire congregation would be condemned forever. He included every minor and trivial thought, word or deed that was not perfect. He suffered great pains spiritually. He was trying to be perfect, but when he was not perfect he obsessed over receiving forgiveness for himself for the sake of his congregation. He was afraid of the devil.
One day, however, Martin Luther realized that his works would never save him, that an eternity in heaven is dependent entirely on the grace of God. He realized that his earthly fears were keeping him bound when the Gospel was given to make us free. He realized that nothing he feared had power over him because God was his refuge and strength.
When Martin Luther read the passage from Romans 3, he rediscovered the foundation of the Gospel message: it is not by our works that we are saved, but by the amazing grace of God. It is so much easier for us to do good works than to accept the humbling reality that we can never make ourselves good enough to enter into the presence of God. We don’t want God to see our imperfections and we fear what will happen when He does. It is much, much harder for us to cry out to God in our imperfections because we are truly afraid of what He might say. Yet, the true path, the better path, is to cry out in faith knowing that God is gracious and merciful, full of forgiveness. There is nothing we can do to earn His grace, but in faith we can boldly approach Him with our needs. He will stop and listen. He will heal. In Him and in Him alone, we have joy and hope and peace.
In the texts for today we see a strong and powerful image of God. He is “our refuge and our strength.” We need not fear, like Martin Luther feared for himself and for his congregation, because God is a very present help in trouble. It was Psalm 46 that Martin Luther used as the basis for one of his most important works: the hymn “A Mighty Fortress.” God is always there. He is a fortress in times of difficulty and a refuge in times of need. When things are looking bad in the world in which we live, as they must have looked to Luther in 1517, we can rest assured that God is present, active and faithful.
The Old Covenant included list of laws that were required for righteousness. Leaders demanded obedience, and they made threats or bribes to keep the people in line. The leaders laid heavy burdens on the people, and the people failed. That’s why God made the New Covenant that gives the believer the faith to live according to God’s Word.
Jesus told those listening that the truth would set them free, but the Jewish leaders didn’t understand what he was talking about. “We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How do you say, ‘You will be made free’?” They relied on their heritage; they relied on Abraham and Moses for their salvation. But since they could not keep the Law perfectly, they would always fail to live up to the expectations of that Law. Jesus said that whenever you sin, no matter how small or insignificant, you are a slave to sin. This is what Martin Luther discovered when he was trying to confess himself into salvation.
The New Covenant gives us a new attitude; it changes how we look at God’s Law and God’s Word. In faith we respond to the call of God. The Old Covenant, which comes from outside, is replaced with a covenant that comes from inside. The Law still has a purpose, in that it helps us to see that we are in need of a Savior. When we hear the Gospel, God’s Word is placed in the heart; faith is given so that the believer can act out of love rather than fear or greed. We are no longer burdened by that Law, but we are set free by faith to live out God’s Word in the world.
This life of grace is what Martin Luther discovered as he searched the scriptures for relief from his burdens. He longed to be freed from the fear, guilt and pain he experienced when he recognized himself as the sinner that he was. He knew there was no way he could be good or enough for the gifts of God. His fears threatened to affect his ministry, because he thought his lifetime of sin would invalidate the work he was called to do in the church.
Then he found the grace of God, that unbelievable truth that the work of salvation is not dependent on man but rather on the mercy of God. When we realize that we are sinners, in need of a Savior, our whole world is turned upside down. We are set free from the burdens of the law so that we might live to the glory of God in His grace. This is what happened to Martin Luther when he read Paul’s words to the Romans, “We maintain therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”
There may be many things in this world that we should fear. That fear can be a good thing because it helps us beware and do the right things. However, no earthly fear or works will ever free us from sin and death. “Fear the Lord and give him glory.” The hour of judgment is upon us, but the judge has chosen to forgive our sins through the blood of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We need not fear; the angel in Revelation proclaimed the Good news that God has done all that is necessary. We justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. By His grace we are made sons and daughters, freed to live the lives He is calling us to live.
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