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)
"We have the more sure word of prophecy; and you do well that you heed it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns, and the morning star arises in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke, being moved by the Holy Spirit." 2 Peter 1:19-21, WEB
I am working on a project for a friend. It will be a present, a picture filled with memories of a life being celebrated. The project has a million little pieces; well, perhaps a million is an exaggeration, but it feels like there are that many. Each piece has its place and it took a long time to choose which ones to use and where they fit best. It is like putting a puzzle together, although I don't have the lovely photo on the box to help with the process.
I got it all figured out this morning, but I didn't glue anything as I went. Now I have to take everything off again so that I can secure each piece where it belongs. The problem is that there are so many pieces that it will be difficult to remember. I can just see myself picking up a piece and wondering, "Now where did this go?" If I glue it in the wrong place, then another piece will not fit properly. I solved this dilemma by taking a photo of the project with all the pieces in place. I can now take everything off and begin the finishing process without worry about my memory.
God has written His Word on our hearts. We have the Holy Spirit to help us get through the days. But we are human, fallible and despite our sainthood we are sinners who fail to live up to the expectations of God. We live in a world that has encouraged us to follow our hearts, even though our hearts are too often led astray by the twists of God's word that are Satan's greatest weapon against God and His people. Satan has convinced too many people in our age that the Bible can mean whatever we want it to mean, and thus that there is no truth, that we can put the pieces together as it pleases us and follow God as we wish.
I found an article online that gives twenty different ways that the scriptures can be twisted. These techniques are used by cults, but they are also used by people who want the church to conform to the world or to their way of thinking. These twists include misquoting the text or taking it out of context. It can be done by aligning texts that have little to do with each other or by adding information to the text to make it say what we want it to say. The twisting can come by playing with the words or siting confusing definitions. Too many people "proof-text" or selectively cite passages that have been misinterpreted. There are those who have decided that they have been given authority to supplement the text with new revelation. Too many people confused about scriptures because they try to make it fit into their world view; others have rejected the biblical authority and so pick and choose what they want to believe.
We wonder how we can possibly remain faithful when we are subjected to so many obstacles. How can we really know what is true? The twists sound so good sometimes. The interpretations seem right. Like my project, we need to find a way to make all these things fit into our lives. I know that over the years I have understood the scriptures personally in many different ways, depending on the circumstances of my life at that time. Read one text to a hundred people and God will touch them in a hundred ways. God's Word is living and active in our lives. God still talks to His people
Yet, God has given us a snapshot so that we will remember how everything fits together. Each book of the Bible points us to Jesus Christ, to the promise of the Gospel and to God's faithfulness. Each story helps us to see how God deals with His people. It might seem confusing sometimes, but God has given us all we need to understand. Scripture interprets scripture and the texts do not contradict themselves, so when we come to an idea that seems contradictory we need only look to the rest of God's Word for the truth. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the Church historic and present, the ancient creeds and our brothers and sisters in Christ, we can stay on the right road and walk in God's ways with faith.
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Scriptures for Sunday, May 29, 2016, Third Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Kings 8:22-24, 27-29, 41-43; Psalm 96:1-9; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke 7:1-10
"Sing to Yahweh! Bless his name! Proclaim his salvation from day to day!" Psalm 96:2, WEB
We recently bought a new car; it was a used car, but it was new to us. We went to a car dealer where we have made several previous purchases; we go there because we are friends with a member the family who owns the business. Our friend does not deal with us directly, but she sends us to members of the team that will take care of us in her name. We have always been satisfied, not only with the end result, but also with the process. They have the authority to do business with us and they do it well.
It would be impossible for my friend to do business with every person that wants her special attention. I am sure that she ensures the best deal for others and she would not have enough time to do her own job if she spent all her time wandering the lots with customers in search of the perfect car. So, she has certain people she trusts with her friends and gives them the charge and authority they need to work in her name.
Leaders often select people they trust to work in their names. The President doesn't go everywhere, but instead sends ambassadors or other representatives. Bishops can't be at every congregation that needs his shepherd's care, so he has helpers that go in his stead. Businesspeople often have assistants who take care of the everyday tasks so that they can do the work that they must do. It isn't that these leaders a< re too lazy to do the work; they simply can't do everything so they send others with the charge and authority to do what needs to be done.
We can't compare any person with a high position to the Lord God Almighty, because even the most powerful human beings are not able to do what God can do. God needs no one to accomplish His work because He can do it all. However, God has invited His people to be partners in the work He is doing in the world. From the very beginning, God gave Adam and Eve authority over all of creation. He gave the judges, kings and prophets authority over His people. He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, authority over everything. Jesus then gave His authority to those He chose to be His ambassadors in this world.
Paul makes it clear in today's Epistle lesson that his authority is not from any human being. He was called and sent as an apostle for Christ by Christ Himself and by the Father. The authority Paul had to write, to minister, to heal and encourage came because God accomplished the work of the cross and the empty tomb. He made all things right and He is the one who deserves the glory.
Unfortunately, we are easily distracted and confused by the things of this world. Satan, from the very beginning, has twisted God's Word to make it mean something very different than God intended. At the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Satan convinced Adam and Eve that God was keeping them from eating because He wanted to them to be ignorant and subservient. "You can be like God," he said. But God kept them from that tree to protect them from the harm that would come from the knowledge. He wanted them to be partners, but the knowledge they gained by eating the fruit made them afraid of Him. That's exactly what Satan intended, because when we are afraid of God, we hide from Him and are less able to be a part of His work and Kingdom.
Satan continues to confuse us today. He takes powerful words like love, hope, justice, and even sex, and He twists those words in a way that leads us down a dangerous road. It sounds good! Yes, the words of Satan in the Garden of Eden sounded very good. Who doesn't want to be like God! Yes, the worldly understanding of love, hope, justice and sex sound good to our ears, but are they truly what God intends for us as His people? Does love mean tolerance? Does hope mean we can wish for whatever we want? Does justice mean violence in the streets? Does sex mean satisfying our bodily desires no matter what? Satan and the world would have you think so, but God has given us His Word so that we will understand all those things through His eyes.
And, He has sent ambassadors, apostles, teachers, preachers, mothers and fathers, friends and other Christians to help us sort out what He meant. He gave some the authority to speak on His behalf, to help us learn to understand what God intends for our lives. He sent men like Paul to explain it to us. But even Paul had difficulty because others spoke as if they were representatives of God. The Galatians heard a different word, they heard a twisting of the Word that led them to follow a different "good news." But as Paul says, there is only one "Good News." They teach these things by some other authority, often their own.
It is interesting to note that even those beloved of God, chosen and gifted, often are not the ones whom God calls to do something specific. Take David, for instance. David had God's promise: His house would rule forever. David did the hard work of inaugurating Israel as a great nation, building a palace and a city, establishing relationships around the world with the nations. He fought the hard battle and won with God's help. He was dedicated to God, did God's Word and was blessed because of it. The Messiah came from David's line even though it was broken repeatedly throughout the history of Israel and Judah.
Yet, David was not able to build the Temple of God. His history of violence was too great. It was perhaps a necessary evil; God send David to the battlefield, ordained him to lead the army to victory over and over again. He shed the blood of thousands. In 1 Samuel, the dancers greeted David with the song, "Saul hath slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands." This was the moment when Saul lost his mind over David, but David's accomplishments were not his own. His victories were given to him by God, so why did God keep him from building a Temple?
For one thing, David shed innocent blood, particularly the blood of Uriah, Bathsheba's husband. But the ordinance against David's wish to build was not a punishment for his sinfulness. The Temple required a life, and builder, of peace not war. And David may not have built the Temple, but it was his offspring that did so. Solomon was the one to take everything David collected, the materials, the people and the place to build the house. Solomon may have been the one to complete the work, but David had his own role in the work.
David had the authority to establish Israel, but his authority was limited. Solomon had the authority to build God's house. The people who helped us buy our car did not have the authority to give us a free car or promise other benefits. Ambassadors, representatives and assistants are also limited in their authority. Unfortunately, sometimes those who are given power take more for themselves. Instead of doing the work they are called to do, they do the work they want to do. This is what was happening in Galatia. Those teachers who were giving a difficult Gospel were doing so without God's authority.
We like to keep God in a box of our making. For many that is the purpose of a church or temple. Solomon knew better, however. He knew that God could not be limited by human ideas or stone walls. "Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens can't contain you; how much less this house that I have built!" Our ideas and the desires of our flesh cannot contain Him either.
The problem with the false teachers in Galatia was that they were limiting God's grace by demanding certain legalistic works. They were insistent that those who became Christians had to first become Jews, to be circumcised and follow the Laws of Moses. This was the gospel that Paul was arguing against. God's grace was given for all who believe, not all who follow a list of steps toward salvation.
Solomon knew that God's grace was for all men, even though Israel was especially blessed. During his prayer at the dedication of the Temple in today's Old Testament passage, Solomon says, "Moreover concerning the foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, when he comes out of a far country for your name's sake (for they shall hear of your great name, and of your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm); when he comes and prays toward this house; hear in heaven, your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you for; that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, to fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by your name."
Israel was blessed to be a blessing, and as such invited the world to experience the love and mercy of the God who hears our prayers. He doesn't fit into a building, even one as grant as the Temple in Jerusalem. God rules over all the earth. I was looking through some pictures this morning and came across one that I took on a trip last year. It was in West Texas, far from the congestion of the city. The landscape was so large and uninhabited that it seemed like there must not be any life for a hundred miles. I felt very insignificant as I looked at the picture, but I also thought about the God who is greater than even the greatness of Texas.
Our pastor mentioned in his sermon last week that Holy Trinity Sunday is "half time" of the church year. I had never really thought of it in that way, but it is true. We have spent the last six months or so hearing the story of God. From Advent, to Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and finally Easter, we have heard the stories of God's love for His people, of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, of His ministry among people. We've seen how God sent Jesus for our sake and learned why. We recognized our own sinfulness and received God's mercy. For the next few months, until the beginning of Advent, we will see what this means for our life of faith. Who are we? Who is the Church? How are we to live? What are we called to do? In these coming weeks we’ll read through many of the letters sent by the apostles to the churches. We’ll see Jesus and the disciples doing the practical ministry of the Kingdom as recorded by Luke.
We begin this time with a reminder that we are called, like Paul, to be ambassadors for Jesus Christ. We are blessed to be a blessing. We have the authority to speak the Gospel, to do God's Work, to share God's grace with the world. It is important, however, to remember that the authority comes from God, not from men or ourselves. Anything we do, we do for the glory of God and in His name. It is not up to us to decide what that work should be or what words we should use.
God is able to do this without us. He is able to save people without one word from us. However, He has chosen to make us partners with Him. It is by His Word and by His Spirit we can do the work. While it is tempting to follow our own ways, to do what we think sounds good or what we think is best, we should remember that we are no different than Adam and Eve. We can be easily swayed by the false words and the twists of scripture that will lead us to do things our own way.
God is with us. Solomon pondered why the eternal God would dwell in a measly house on earth; we should have the same humility to wonder why He would choose to dwell with us. We know that Jesus lives in our hearts. We know that the Holy Spirit guides us and gives us all we need to continue Jesus' ministry in the world. But are we ready to go out in faith to do that work, even if we do not experience that presence or 'feel' that Spirit? Do we believe God's Word as He has given it to us or do we want to follow the twists that wound too good to our ears? Do we trust, like Solomon, that God will keep His promises?
In our texts for this week we are reminded that Jesus came for more than the Jews. He came for all nations. He came for us, even those of us who are not from the nation of Israel. He came for the world. Half of the Church year focuses on gathering around Christ, hearing His story, experiencing His presence, sharing in His sacraments. Though we continue to gather around Christ during the season of Pentecost, this time is our opportunity to take what we have learned and experienced into the world. We are not blessed to dwell inside the buildings we built, as if God is confined to those spaces. We are blessed to take God out into the world.
God's word is firm and right and true, but human understanding is lacking. God does not need us to tweak it or make it palatable to others. His promises are true and He is faithful. He has promised that His grace will fall on whomever He chooses, and that His salvation is available to all nations. Sometimes we try to make God’s word fit our own desires. We take passages and twist them to mean what we want them to mean. We create a different gospel, just as those teachers were doing in Galatia.
Thankfully, God is greater than our failing. He is not confined by our foolishness. If we fail, He will make things right. But He has given us the authority to be His ambassadors, trusting that we will follow His Word not our own. It is not up to decide how someone will be saved. God has a plan that is beyond human understanding; we are simply called to trust in Him. We might just be the one He sends to make a difference in the life of the most unexpected person.
The Centurion was not a Jew, but he'd heard about Jesus and recognized in Him something of value. He knew that Jesus had authority that others did not have. He was a powerful and wealthy man and could have paid any of the doctors to care for his servant. Instead, he sought Jesus, somehow recognizing in Him something real. Despite his power, the Centurion knew that he was unworthy to be in Jesus' presence. He also knew that Jesus needed to only speak the word and his servant would be healed. That's faith.
Do we have that kind of faith? Do we have the kind of faith that allows us to accept that Jesus can change our world without standing beside us? Do we believe that God can work through us in ways that we can't always explain? In other words, can we be like the disciples, continuing to do His work with His authority even while He has gone to sit at the right hand of the Father? Jesus could save the world without us. He already did! He's not a lazy Savior sending others to do what He doesn't feel like doing. He has chosen us to be His representatives and has given us all we need to do so. We go out into the world, blessed to be a blessing, so that He will be glorified above all else.
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