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)
Lectionary Scriptures for February 25, 2024, Second Sunday in Lent: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-38
“For whoever will be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man also will be ashamed of him, when he comes in his Father’s glory, with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38, WEB
I have a cartouche that my husband bought me decades ago when he was deployed to the Middle East. A cartouche is an oval with a line at one end tangent to it which in Egyptian hieroglyphics indicates that the text enclosed is a royal name. Mine is a silver and gold pendant that has my name on one side and several symbols on the other. I can’t read the symbols, but they are meant to represent my name. Now, I certainly don’t have a royal name, but these cartouches were popular among the servicemen who served at the time. Some say they represent good luck and protection from evil. I just thought it was pretty. I always wore it so that the side with my name faced out, because the other side was beyond my understanding.
A number of years ago the singer known as Prince changed his name. He was born Prince Rogers Nelson, but used just his first name professionally. Until the day he decided to change it. In the early 1990’s he created a name that was only a symbol and was unpronounceable. The symbol was later copyrighted as Love Symbol #2, but reporters and disc jockeys simply referred to him as “the artist formerly known as Prince.” He quickly realized the foolishness of this name change and returned to Prince.
Our Old Testament text for today is about a name change made by God. He did this often in the scriptures. Jacob became Israel. Cephas became Peter. Saul became Paul. The name change gave them a new identity. Names have meaning, especially in those ancient days.
We do not necessarily understand the depth of what happened in this passage because our letters are simply building blocks for words. They do not mean anything separate and alone. An “m” is just an “m” and will always be so. However, in the Hebrew language there is meaning to the letters. As in some other languages, you might be familiar with the fact that the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical equivalent. Alef=one. There are those who study the numerics of the language, finding meaning in the numbers of the words as well as the words in context.
It is obvious in today’s text that something has changed with Abram and Sarai. Something is new. God gave them new names. Though the names themselves are quite similar to the names they were given by their parents, their new names show at least a difference in dialects. The scriptures tell us that the new names represent their new place in God’s plan. Abram became Abraham; the childless one became the one who would be the father of many nations. Sarai became Sarah; the childless one became the one who would give rise to nations.
There is more to this name change than meets our eyes, however, and it has to do with the additional letter. The letter “h” in Hebrew is “hey” and means “to reveal” or “behold.” It also represents the divine breath and revelation. In other words, God has breathed new life into Abraham and Sarah; their lives will be different because God is irrevocably intertwined in them.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I must confess that this is one of the few things I remember from literature class in school. It stuck with me all these years because of the truth of it. Someone once said, “How do you make God laugh? Tell Him your plans for the future.” We make plans, and something always seems to go awry. We make plans every day; we schedule our time to fulfill the needs of our family, co-workers, communities. We plan ahead for retirement, for our children’s education and even for our death and burial. When something goes wrong and our plans change, we become confused and upset, particularly when we believe we have made our plans based on God’s promises.
Peter had great plans for Jesus. He was going to be King and save the Jews from their oppression. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he knew Jesus was the Messiah, but he had it all worked out in his head how Jesus would accomplish the work of salvation. Unfortunately, his plans were not Jesus’ plans. His plans were not God’s plan.
Imagine what it must have been like for Abram. After all, he left everything based on the promise of this unknown God who spoke to him one day. God promised that he would be the father of many nations, yet when he was ninety-nine, he wasn’t even a father. I am sure that as he and Sarai made lots of plans as they left their home to go to that unknown land. They probably thought about names for the children God promised. They probably thought about a home they would build, how they would take care of one another. They made plans. But many years passed, and they remained childless.
God first made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12. He called Abram to a new place, promising that he would be great and a blessing to the whole world. He also promised Abram that his offspring would inherit the Promised Land. There was no reciprocal promise, God asked nothing in return. This promise was renewed in Genesis 15 when God met with Abram and cut the covenant. There the Lord presented Abram a royal grant which is an unconditional promise to fulfill the grant of land. Abram never saw the fulfillment of God’s plan.
God is faithful even when we are not. We are unfaithful because our expectations do not line up with God’s plan. We think God is not fulfilling His promises, so we try to take control. Though Abram followed, he took matters into his own hands all along the journey, never quite trusting that God was in control. Ultimately, Abram and Sarai even tried to provide their own heir, turning to Sarai’s servant Hagar to be a surrogate, but Hagar’s son Ishmael would never be the son of the promise.
In today’s passage, God repeated the promise of offspring. Abram was ninety-nine years old and still had no children. Sarai was barren and very old. Despite their unfaithfulness, God appeared to Abram and confirmed his promise.
This promise is more than a royal land grant; Abram would be the father of many nations. This was a suzerain-vassal covenant which is a conditional pledge between a great king and a subject king. As long as the vassal remained faithful and loyal, the suzerain would be there as guardian and protector. The sign of this covenant was circumcision. God said, “I am God Almighty. Walk before me and be blameless. I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” As long as Abram’s descendants continued to consecrate themselves before the Lord, they would receive His blessings.
It seems impossible that a ninety-nine-year-old childless man might become the father of many nations. The promise is equally impossible for Sarah who was well beyond the age of childbearing. Yet, Abraham believed God and trusted that God would be faithful. Do we live with such trust? We should. Although our names have not been changed, God has breathed His “hey” into our lives, too. We have been changed as He has revealed Himself to us through Jesus, by grace, in our baptisms.
That life is not always going to be what we hope or expect.
In this week’s Gospel text, Jesus told Peter and the disciples that not only was death part of His mission, but that they also must be prepared to give up their own lives for the sake of the Gospel. Following Jesus meant death. It meant taking up their own crosses and following Him. It means the same for us. Do we really understand what Jesus is trying to say? We try to define our crosses by the hard things in our life. We take our suffering and say, “This is the cross I have to bear.”
Another way people interpret this text is reflective of God’s call to serve those who suffer injustice. Our cross, in this way of thinking, is to feed the poor and free the prisoners. Many people experience sharing their resources as a burden. We have to die to our own lusts and desires if we are going to give to others. We are blessed to be a blessing, so it is our calling to share everything we have with those in need. This is how we respond to the gift of the Gospel. Is this really a cross we have to bear?
Jesus speaks even harder words for us. “For what will a man give in exchange for his life? For whoever will be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man also will be ashamed of him, when he comes in his Father’s glory, with the holy angels.” Is He asking for us to give a cup of water to the thirsty in exchange for the life He has given us? No. He has given us life and promised that if we share a cup of water in His name with someone who thirsts, we will be blessed.
Our cross is not some suffering we have to face alone in this world. It is not some work we have to do. We take up Christ’s cross with Him. It is His cross we are called to share with others. This is incredibly hard, especially since we know most people do not want to hear the message that comes through the cross. People don't want to hear that they are sinners in need of a Savior and that the only way to inherit the kingdom of God is through Jesus’ death. The message of the cross is foolishness. We want to earn God’s grace. Sometimes we are even ashamed to speak the words to our neighbors.
It is much harder for us to speak the Gospel than to give the thirsty a cup of water or for us to suffer pain in our flesh. But this is the cross we are called to carry, to be witnesses for Jesus in this world. It is a heavy burden to bear, but we are reminded that we do not carry it alone. As we walk in faith, doing all that God has called us to, He will be with us, holding us up, loving us and giving us everything we need to speak those words of grace into people’s lives. We might have to suffer for it, but we won’t suffer alone and in the end we will join Him in His glory in the Day to come. But if we are ashamed, if we do not take Christ’s cross into the world, He will also be ashamed of us. It is worth the risk because suffering in this world is temporary, but the glory in the next is eternal.
God had a plan for Jesus, and it wasn’t what Peter expected. Peter knew that Jesus was the Messiah because the Holy Spirit had revealed it to Him, but Peter’s expectations were much different. We, like Peter, might rebuke God for doing things His way, thinking that we know better. The text today asks us if know who Jesus is. Do we have an answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” Do we know that He is the Messiah, and do we know what that means? We have the advantage of hindsight; we know the rest of the story, but that does not always guarantee that we understand how God is working in our lives. Faith means we trust God’s plan, knowing that only He can make things work out right.
Faith doesn’t always lead to what we call blessing.
A story is told that at some time when a certain country was persecuting Christians, a small gathering of faithful were in a church at worship. Suddenly the door slammed open, and soldiers entered the sanctuary, with weapons pointed at the congregation. The leader of the soldiers yelled out to those who were gathered, “If you deny your faith and walk out of here right now, you will be safe.” A number of people rose and went for the door, but a few people stayed seated. They were unwilling to deny their faith in Jesus Christ. When the last of the deniers left the building, the soldiers closed and locked the door and then all sat in a pew. The leader said, “I’m sorry to frighten you, but in this day we had to be certain that we worshipped with true believers. We know those of you who risked your life for your faith will not betray us.”
Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; and whoever will lose his life for my sake and the sake of the Good News will save it.” Is death a requirement for faithfulness? We are reminded in the scriptures that Christ died once for all. So, what does this mean for us today? We may struggle with the question of whether or not we would stand firm when facing persecution, but are we willing to refuse to take our kids to soccer practice on a Sunday morning so we can attend worship? Will we tell our bosses we can’t do something because it goes against our faith? Will we stand up for the things that we believe matter in this world? Will we call a spade a spade even when the rest of the world says it is a shovel?
Jesus said, “For what should a man give in exchange for his life? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man also shall be ashamed of him, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Faith means being a Christian even when it is hard, even when it is dangerous. It means standing firm in the promises of God even when it seems He’s not living up to His end of the covenant. God is always faithful.
We may never have to make the choice of whether or not to stay in the pew when threatened by a gunman’s bullet, but there many opportunities to deny oneself for the sake of Christ and His gospel. Will we gain the whole world by keeping our faith private, but lose true life in doing so? Are we so ashamed of Christ that we will bury Him beneath our daily worldly activities because it is easier to do so than to stand with Him? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves, rather than wondering what cross we have to carry. For losing one’s life does not necessarily mean dying in the flesh, it means putting Jesus Christ before everything else in our life. It is there we find true life.
This is a message even the disciples did not want to hear. When Jesus began to speak about death and the cross, Peter took Him aside and rebuked Him. Jesus rebuked Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! For you have in mind not the things of God, but the things of men.” Jesus was not calling Peter Satan, but Peter was trying to make God fulfill his own plans and expectations, which is exactly what Satan attempts to do with us every day. As we entered Lent, we heard how Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness from the path God intended for Him, which was the path to the cross. In today’s text, at the other end of His ministry, Satan used Peter to try to do the same thing.
We live in a world filled with sin and though we have been changed by God’s love, we still fail, we want to be in control, to be like God, and to do God’s work in our own way. Sometimes we are impatient, thinking that God is taking too long. We see the sin and pain in the world and wish He would do something to make problems end. At other times, we question whether God is taking care of the matter in the right way. Our motives are not always self-centered, but we are led by our own biases, experiences, and expectations. Unfortunately, our way is always imperfect because we can’t see the world as God sees it.
Like Abram and Sarai, we think that we need to be in control. We want to avoid suffering and pain, and yet sometimes it is in the very suffering that God does His best work as we learn to trust in Him. Look at what happened on the cross: Jesus Christ died, but in His death, we find true life. Paul reminds us that we grow through our suffering, which produces perseverance, which produces character, and that character produces the hope that is already within us through faith in Jesus Christ. The character that comes from deep within holds on to a hope that is real and trustworthy because it comes from faith in Christ, a hope that was given through the blood of Jesus on the cross through which we are saved.
The hardest part of our relationship with God is to let Him have control. We make plans for our lives and all too often they go astray. We map out a timeline for when we will graduate, get a job, find a mate, have children, retire and some of us even try to plan our deaths. The death part is a little harder to control, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.
There was an episode of “The Big Bang Theory” where Sheldon decided that his life expectancy was too short (he would only live another sixty years, and miss out on so much.) He began his quest for old age by choosing different food, making Thursday cruciferous vegetable night rather than pizza night. Unfortunately, the bowl full of Brussels sprouts gave him such horrible gas that he thought he was going to die. He thought maybe a running routine with Penny would help, but down the steps on the first day. Then he decided the only way to really save himself was to hide in his room with a virtual presence device out in the world. He created a robot with a video monitor that was connected to a video camera in his room. His plan posed a few problems and he realized that you can’t live your life through a video screen. He has also realized that you can’t control every aspect of your life.
We try, but as we learn to trust in God, we realize that He has much better plans for our lives. He knows us better than we do. He knows us to the core of our beings. He knows our gifts because He has given them to us. He knows every step we have taken and every step we will take. He has set the path for us, and the best path we can follow is the one He has ordained. Sadly, no matter how much we trust God, we still try to go our own way, follow our own plans, do our own thing. That’s when we struggle, although most of us never really learn that lesson.
God does not fail. He knows the right time and the right way to accomplish His plan. He knew exactly how to overcome the sin of this world. He sent Jesus exactly when we needed Him to come, to do exactly what needed to be done. We do not understand why. We can’t quite grasp the need for the cross or for Christ’s blood to cleanse us from our sins. It isn’t up to us to decide whether or not God did things the right way. We are called to trust in Him, to believe in Jesus and to follow Jesus wherever He might lead us. Things might not be as we hope they will be, but they will be exactly as God intends as we walk in His ways and follow His path. Lent is a time to learn how to take up our cross and follow Jesus, to learn how to die and live again so that others might have life.
Give the word to your neighbors. Reveal the Gospel to your friends. Share the forgiveness of God with the world. Tell them about the God that is both fearful and merciful, about the God that died so that they might live. Tell them about Jesus so that they might be saved. Give it freely, for there is more than enough grace to go around. Do not be ashamed of Christ, for He has promised blessings to the faithful. Do not worry about what might happen tomorrow and do not fear death, for God is faithful and His promises are true. He has breathed His Spirit into your life so that you will pass His grace on to the world. Give glory to God and your faith will grow, even in the midst of your doubts and fears. And He will change the world.
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“May Yahweh answer you in the day of trouble. May the name of the God of Jacob set you up on high, send you help from the sanctuary, grant you support from Zion, remember all your offerings, and accept your burned sacrifice. Selah. May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your counsel. We will triumph in your salvation. In the name of our God, we will set up our banners. May Yahweh grant all your requests. Now I know that Yahweh saves his anointed. He will answer him from his holy heavens with the saving strength of his right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we trust in the name of Yahweh our God. They are bowed down and fallen, but we rise up, and stand upright. Save, Yahweh! Let the King answer us when we call!” Psalm 20, WEB
Have you ever read the whole Bible? I have done it several times, although I have not read it from page one to the end of the book. There are many types of reading plans available to help you along the way. Some begin on page one and lead you through the right number of chapters to get finished in a certain amount of time. Others order the story chronologically. Yet others mix Old and New Testament scriptures so you can see the parallels and connections. I’ve used a plan with a different portion of the Bible for each day of the week. Sadly, many who follow a plan that begins at page one give up when it becomes overwhelming (like in Leviticus!) Reading from the different parts of the book means that we won’t give up when we face a difficult section of the scriptures. We know that tomorrow will be better and so we get through the hard reading.
Many people prefer to stick to their favorite readings, because some of the Bible is really hard to read. The stories of the Old Testament judges, kings and prophets do not make sense to us. There was so much bloodshed and so many irrational expectations. How can we understand a God who would ask Abraham to sacrifice his beloved child? How can we accept the word of a God who would require the destruction of even animals and property by His invading army? How can we believe the stories when they seem completely unbelievable? Even the heroes seem
Take the story of Gideon, for instance. He had an army of thousands available to defeat the enemy on his doorstep. Yet, God told him that he had too many for the task at hand. Gideon told the people that anyone who wanted to leave could leave, so many left the battlefield to go home. Even with a big loss of men, God told Gideon that 10,000 was too many. “I’ll tell you which men to take.” And in the end, God allowed only three hundred men to go into battle. Now, imagine you are one of those three hundred men; would you really follow Gideon?
We know that poor Moses was stuck with a nation of people who were not thrilled to be wandering around in the desert for forty years. They complained about everything: no water, no meat, no bread, too much meat, weird food that’s kind of like bread. They wanted to go home. They wanted it to be done. They wanted someone else to lead them because Moses was not doing things the way they thought it should be done. Yet, in the end they followed Moses because God was with him, and God proved Moses to be true.
Is God with our leaders? I suppose there are times when we think that is not true, yet God has a purpose for all of them. We might not agree with the way they are accomplishing their work. We might not like their agenda. We might think that their expectations are ridiculous. I’m not sure if I would have followed Gideon into battle or Moses to a new place. Yet, we are called to pray for our leaders, to hold them up before God and seek prosperity under their leadership. We might not understand why God has chosen them for this time and place, but we can trust that God knows what He’s doing in all things even when we do not understand. And so, we pray that God will bless them, whether we like them or not, because when our leaders are blessed, at whatever level they lead, we are blessed.
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