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)
"Rejoice in Jehovah, O ye righteous: Praise is comely for the upright. Give thanks unto Jehovah with the harp: Sing praises unto him with the psaltery of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; Play skilfully with a loud noise. For the word of Jehovah is right; And all his work is done in faithfulness. He loveth righteousness and justice: The earth is full of the lovingkindness of Jehovah. By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as a heap: He layeth up the deeps in store-houses. Let all the earth fear Jehovah: Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. Jehovah bringeth the counsel of the nations to nought; He maketh the thoughts of the peoples to be of no effect. The counsel of Jehovah standeth fast for ever, The thoughts of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is Jehovah, The people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. Jehovah looketh from heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men; From the place of his habitation he looketh forth Upon all the inhabitants of the earth, He that fashioneth the hearts of them all, That considereth all their works. There is no king saved by the multitude of a host: A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain thing for safety; Neither doth he deliver any by his great power. Behold, the eye of Jehovah is upon them that fear him, Upon them that hope in his lovingkindness; To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. Our soul hath waited for Jehovah: He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, Because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy loving kindness, O Jehovah, be upon us, According as we have hoped in thee." Psalm 33, ASV
"God bless you." Why do we say this after someone sneezes? As it turns out, this is a practice that goes a long way back, even to the ancient Greek and Roman cultures. In those days, a sneeze was seen as a sign of wellness, and those nearby responded with statements of good wishes like "live long" or "May Jupiter bless you." Other ancients thought that a sneeze allowed the soul to escape the body through the nose and the greeting "bless you" would stop the devil from claiming that freed soul. Yet other ancients thought that the heart stopped momentarily, so the greeting "bless you" was a way of welcoming the person back to life.
This type of response has been given across history and cultures. While we say "God bless you," others say "praise be to God." Many cultures use phrases that talk about health such as "live well," "be healthy," and "may you live 100 years." Some people say "grow tall" when children sneeze. During the bubonic plague in the sixth century, Pope Gregory the Great suggested the use of "God bless you" as a prayer for those who sneezed. They knew a sneeze was the first sign of impending illness, and the prayer was a cry to God to protect the victims from the plague's inevitable conclusion, death.
Sadly, the phrase "God bless you" has become a platitude to many people, a phrase that has little meaning and is spoken without much thought. We hear a sneeze and we say the words, not really considering the impact of our statement. For some, the statement has even become aggressive and without real prayerfulness. They feel the need to insert God into the message without really considering it a cry for God's blessing.
The word 'bless' has come to mean having something good or desirable, something material that seems to make things better for us. When we say "God bless you," however, we usually don't really mean that we are asking God to give something tangible. The blessing more commonly means that we are making something holy by a special prayer or asking for God's protection or care. Biblically, the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated 'bless' mean 'speaking words of divine favor,' 'favor,' 'kindness,' 'speak of excellence,' 'display a favorable disposition,' 'give praise,' 'extol,' 'speak well of,' or 'touch kindly and impart benefits.' When we say "God bless you," we are asking God to speak His Word with kindness and grace over the one we wish to be blessed. When God speaks, people are blessed.
Saturday was Independence Day in the United States, and there was a desperate need for many to cry out the name of God in their celebration. While it is always good to look to God for grace, the cry was often aggressive, with this need to insert God in the conversation because it seems like He has been rejected and ignored. There was little prayerfulness; instead they seemed to demand a recognition of God's presence in our world. While many people were pleased to see God's name as part of our celebration, others took offense to the words "God bless America." They asked, "Why do you have to impart your religion into everything?" Others said, "God doesn't bless nations." Sadly, as with "God bless you," the words seemed to have become little more than a platitude to many.
I understand why some were responding so negatively, but I have to admit that I enjoyed hearing the words (or seeing them on Facebook.) As a matter of fact, I created my own picture to share on my timeline. Those who took offense seemed to think of the word 'bless' in the materialistic sense, as if we were asking God to give us material things or to make us better than others. In my case, and I hope in many of the others, the words were truly a prayer for God to speak well of us, to favor us with His kindness. See, God does bless nations; He blessings those nations of people who love, trust and fear Him. He blesses those who prayerfully cry out for His Word. He blesses them to be a blessing. So let us say, "God bless us," along with the psalmist, understanding these words to mean, "Let thy loving kindness, O Jehovah, be upon us, According as we have hoped in thee."
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"Finally, be ye all likeminded, compassionate, loving as brethren, tenderhearted, humbleminded: not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling; but contrariwise blessing; for hereunto were ye called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For, He that would love life, And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips that they speak no guile: And let him turn away from evil, and do good; Let him seek peace, and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, And his ears unto their supplication: But the face of the Lord is upon them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good? But even if ye should suffer for righteousness' sake, blessed are ye: and fear not their fear, neither be troubled; but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that, wherein ye are spoken against, they may be put to shame who revile your good manner of life in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God should so will, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing." 1 Peter 3:8-17, ASV
"There was once a young shepherd boy who tended his sheep at the foot of a mountain near a dark forest. It was rather lonely for him all day, so he thought upon a plan by which he could get a little company and some excitement. He rushed down towards the village calling out 'Wolf, Wolf,' and the villagers came out to meet him, and some of them stopped with him for a considerable time. This pleased the boy so much that a few days afterwards he tried the same trick, and again the villagers came to his help. But shortly after this a wolf actually did come out from the forest, and began to worry the sheep, and the boy of course cried out 'Wolf, Wolf,' still louder than before. But this time the villagers, who had been fooled twice before, thought the boy was again deceiving them, and nobody stirred to come to his help. So the Wolf made a good meal off the boy's flock, and when the boy complained, the wise man of the village said: 'A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth.'"
The moral of this ancient fable is found in the advice from the wise man, "A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth." A little lie, though it might seem to have a good purpose, destroys the credibility of the speaker, leaving doubt in all his words and causing the hearers to ignore even the truth.
Hate exists. Racism exists. Christian persecution exists. People are beaten and killed because they are something that someone does not approve. Yes, gay people are harmed by fools. Yes, black people face discrimination. Yes, stereotypes trap people in boxes that make it impossible for them to accomplish their true purpose in this world. Yes, labels create division between people. Yes, there are people in every culture, nation, community and heritage that hate others they deem are outsiders, sinners, evil. Blacks are hated. Whites are hated. People of every faith are hated, even by people of faith. We are all guilty at times for speaking ill of our neighbors for one reason or another. There is no group in the world that can claim that they are guiltless from some sort of hate. So, too, we can all claim to be victims of hate because there is someone, somewhere that has something against us.
It is easy for us to grasp onto some story and make it proof that we are hated. The most recent example is that of the church burnings. The story claims that there is an upsurge of hate crimes against predominately black churches in the south due to the recent shooting in South Carolina. There are a number of problems with the reporting of this story, however. First of all, not all the churches listed in the story are actually predominantly black and they are not all in the south. While a number of them have been ruled arson, several were caused by electric problems and one was likely caused by a lightning strike. The cases that have been determined to be arson can't be proven to be racist hate crimes.
The cry is that black churches are burning and it must be racist, but has anyone asked whether or not the hate is against Christians, instead? The investigative findings are being rejected despite the facts because someone, somewhere wants to use these incidents to prove their point. One person even commented, "Well, isn't that convenient? Let's blame nature to cover up for white hate." There was another recent story was about a church that received a racist warning, but it turns out that it was written by a black man. Some people want to fuel the hate, to create division, to call people to arms against supposed enemies.
The timing of this story seems to prove the point that it is racist. Here's a fact that some of the stories are ignoring: there is an average of two intentionally set church fires every three days. In the years 2007 to 2011, an average of 1780 buildings on religious property (churches, temples, mosques, religious education facilities, funeral parlors and related properties) caught on fire. Only sixteen percent of those fires were intentionally set. Of those deemed arson, only a third were at predominantly black places of worship. Some of the fires were motivated by racial bias, but other motives included vandalism, mental health issues, burglary cover-up, retribution against religious authorities, other disputes and financial profit.
Yes, hate exists. Yes, black churches have burned because of racism. White churches have burned because of sin, too, as well as other buildings of faith. Many have burned because churches steeples draw lightning and too many churches are poorly maintained. Buildings of faith are easy targets but they suffer at the hands of many different types of sinners. We all have reason to cry out, but let's be careful to tell the truth in these matters. It does not help us to break the walls of division by placing the blame on the wrong people to prove a point. As a matter of fact, it harms our cause because, as the ancient folktale reminds us, "A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth."
Have you ever cried "Wolf, wolf" and then found it impossible to get support when the threat is real? We blame a lot of others for our troubles, forgetting that we live in an imperfect world. Sometimes a fire is just a fire. Sin will always affect our lives while we live in this world; we are all imperfect beings. We are called to respond to all our problems with trust and faith and forgiveness. We need to work together to find a way to live together, which is the only way we will ever overcome the true hate and evil that exists. We must be careful to face the threats of the world with grace and truth. We will suffer, that is a guarantee for following the Gospel, but we have the promise of God to keep us through it all. May we all beware of how we face perceived hatred and persecution so that we will not blame the wrong people for every insult, offense or discomfort, dividing us even more than sin has already done.
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