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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

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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.

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A WORD FOR TODAY, June 7, 2023

Lectionary Scriptures for June 11, 2023, Second Sunday in Pentecost: Hosea 5:15-6:6; Psalm 119:65-72; Romans 4:13-25; Matthew 9:9-13

ďFor I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.Ē Hosea 6:6, WEB

I had a friend. We made fun of one another all the time, joking about our foibles and laughing together about our failures. The jokes were all in good humor; she was as quick with an insult to me as I was to her. One day in conversation, I made a joke that I thought was very funny based on what I knew about my friend. I had made similar comments many times before, but this time she was extremely offended and cut off our relationship immediately.

I didnít understand what happened. She had been making jokes that were equally hurtful toward me only minutes earlier and we were laughing together about it. It didnít make sense that she would disregard our entire relationship based on one joke. A mutual friend played peacemaker and told me something about my friend that I did not know. My friend had lied to me. If I had known the truth, I would never have made the comment because in that context it was offensive and hurtful. I was extremely apologetic, but also asked my friend how she could have cut off my friendship so quickly when my mistake was brought on by her dishonesty. She wanted me to love the image she had made of herself, but to also treat her as if I knew all her secrets. The two images were polar opposites of one another.

After that, I walked on eggshells every time we ran into one another because I never knew what I might say that would hurt her again. The relationship did not last. She claimed I did not love her as the woman God created, but I could never really know that woman. She did not love herself and denied her God given image by creating another life for herself. She broke off our relationship, but quite frankly I was relieved. I was tired of being blamed for every mistake I made because of her dishonesty. Though I tried once or twice to renew our friendship, she was unable to forgive me and trust me again.

God is faithful and longsuffering. He is steadfast and merciful. The same could not be said about Israel. They still performed the rites of their worship, offering sacrifice according to the laws, but they gave honor to the gods of their neighbors. The people of Israel were giving burnt offerings and sacrifices to God, but they were not giving Him their hearts. They did not really know the God of their fathers or understand the purpose of the things they were doing. They were motivated not by love or praise of God, but out of duty to the expectations of the law and the people. They were obedient to the rules, but lost touch with the intent of what God had for His people.

Their love was fleeting, and it was an image which neither revealed their true selves nor lived up to the expectations of God. It is written in the passage from Hosea that the love of Israel was like the morning fog that disappears as soon as the sun is shining. So it was with Godís people; as soon as they were delivered from difficulty and became prosperous, they forgot the God whose grace brought them out of trouble and into blessing.

We arenít much different. There are certainly times when we do things for all the wrong reasons, thinking perhaps that it is right when in reality it is far from what God would have us do.

Take, for example, our church attendance. Why do we get up every Sunday morning, get all dressed up (or not), travel to a church building to sit for an hour or so in an uncomfortable pew listening and participating in a service? After all, some suggest that we can worship God anywhere like in a field, on the golf course, or in the privacy of our own home. The television is filled with worship we can watch on Sunday morning; it is even easier since the pandemic since churches have continued to stream their services. We can even listen on the radio. So, why do we go?

A story is told of a man who had a dream about worship from the perspective of heaven. An angel took him into a church one Sunday. Everything was as normal; the people were singing with the musicians and listening to the minister speaking Godís word, yet there was no sound. When the man asked what this meant, the angel answered that it was how worship was heard in heaven, for though the lips of the people were making the motions; their hearts and minds were elsewhere.

For some, perhaps, church attendance is merely habit. It is what weíve always done. Sunday morning worship is a great place to catch up with old friends and see family. For some, gathering on Sunday is a way to network with other professionals. Some like the music. Others think the pastor is really funny and they enjoy listening to him preach. Some canít make it through a week without being ďfedĒ by the Word of God. Some donít want to be there; they moan and groan as they roll out of bed, calling their attendance a sacrifice for Godís sake. How does God benefit from a person whose heart is not involved in the worship? Does God get bigger because of the heartless sacrifice of those who gather for worship? Of course not.

God is steadfast and merciful and seeks more from His people. He says, ďFor I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.Ē God is not fooled by the false images we create for ourselves. He knows our hearts. We deny God by not being all He has created us to be and by following our own ways. It is not enough to appear to belong to God by our good works and sacrifices. We belong to God when we love as He loves and show mercy to our neighbors.

In the days of Jesus, the leaders were righteous to the very letter of the law. They fasted when they were supposed to fast, and they followed every rule. They did what God had commanded; they sacrificed according to the Law. God desires lives of praise, not the things we think we can give Him. He owns the whole world, the creation and all those who live in it. We cannot give Him anything because nothing is ours to give. We can only sing songs of praise and thanksgiving and look to Him above all else in this world. He is the Lord God Almighty, Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter. True worship will focus on Him, keeping Him at the center of Church, thanking and praising Him for all that He has done.

There is no hope in the law because there is no guarantee in it. We can do everything right; we can obey every traffic signal, speed limit and safety code, but we can still be in the wrong place at the wrong time and end up in an accident. For example, I was working a job in New Jersey doing quality control for a mobile disc jockey company. On my way from one job to the next, I was in a town with which I was unfamiliar. I was lost, unsure which direction I needed to take to get to the hall, so I got into the left-hand turning lane and waited for the green arrow. When the light changed, I checked traffic. All seemed well, but as I was turning a car flew over the small rise on the other side of the light, ran the red and hit me so hard my car spun around before coming to a halt. An unopen can of soda on my seat flew into the dashboard and exploded. I might have done the same had I not been wearing my seat belt.

I did everything technically right when I was driving that evening, but my decision to make that left put me in the wrong place at the wrong time. I based that decision on poor information and that turn was taking me in the wrong direction. When I left that house that day, I assumed that I would make it home without incident, but I could never be sure of it, even if I did absolutely nothing wrong. Things happen, and they even happen to people who do their best to do what is right and good. Unfortunately, even when we obey all the laws, there are things we do not know that might affect our journey. In my case it was the direction I should go and the heart of the man who ran the red light. If I had known that the left turn would have led to my accident, I would not have gone the wrong way. There is no hope in obeying the law because there is no promise that can be guaranteed.

People who donít steal become victims of people who do. People who donít murder become victims of those who do. People who donít lie or cheat become victims of people who do. Even worse, however, is when we do not have all the information and we make bad decisions that affect our lives. For example, imagine a woman who fell in love with a man who was not honest. They married and she quickly discovered the truth. She realized she made a bad decision and decided to get out of the relationship. However, in her marriage ceremony, she made a vow before God. To overcome her mistake, she had to break that vow. While it was the best thing she could do, breaking the vow was still sinful. She could not trust the law to protect her from what happened. However, she could trust in the promise of grace.

Even though she had to break her vow, God is gracious and merciful. Her sin was not counted against her, for it is by faith that we are saved, not by law. Faith does come with a guarantee. Life will not always be perfect, but God will always be faithful. We can be assured that our trespasses are forgiven and that our failure to live up to the expectations of the Law will never separate us from the God who gave it to us. Faith puts us in a right relationship with Him that the Law could never accomplish because we are imperfect and we will make mistakes, both intentional and accidental. Faith puts our trust in the God who can do the impossible. He created the world out of nothing, gave barren Sarah and aged Abraham a child, made Jesus rise from the dead. He can forgive us for our faults and keep us in a right relationship with Him always.

There is no hope in the Law, but the Law is given to us for a purpose. Todayís psalm is one part of a twenty-two stanza poem that proclaims the wondrous quality of Godís Word, the Law of God. It is a magnificent hymn about Godís Word. We struggle with this psalm because it focuses so much on the Law, but it is much deeper than we see in the English translation. Some of the words have similar translations, but they mean something much different. In verse 65, the word ďdabarĒ is translated ďword,Ē and it refers to the spoken word of God, that which has been proclaimed by the mouths of Godís servants. The word ďwordĒ appears again in verse 67, but this is the Hebrew ďimrahĒ which should be translated ďpromise.Ē The psalmist here is not speaking in terms of self-righteousness as we see in so many in Jesusís day but is seeking Godís blessing and help to live up to His expectations.

We may not have hope in the Law because we live in an imperfect and broken world, but God still calls us to live according to His word. The psalmist knows Godís divine word, His promises, and knows that God is faithful. He compares himself to those who do not know Godís promises. Despite their persecution, the psalmist has not turned away from God. The psalmist is seeking new life and trusts that God will be true to His Word. Our greatest enemy is our own inability to be true to God, but we can trust that He will save according to His promise. When we see our failure through the Law, we see most clearly that our only hope is in Godís mercy.

Matthew was a tax collector who was called to be a disciple. Tax collectors made their living by skimming off the top of the taxes they collected and were seen as taking advantage of Godís people while fraternizing with the enemy. They became rich by convincing people to pay more than Rome required of them. The tax collectors were rejected and were not the right companions for a religious teacher. Matthew was a sinner, but he saw hope in Jesusí spoken words and His promises. Matthewís friends who were also tax collectors and sinners, and they gathered to meet Jesus. The Pharisees considered Jesusí actions as sinful because they had established rules against fellowship with sinners. Jesus was eating with unclean people. How could He be a true teacher of Godís word? Jesus was concerned about the spiritual health of all people. It did not matter to Him that He was breaking one of their laws because He was doing the intent of Godís law: showing mercy.

Jesus offered forgiveness to those in society that were labeled as sinful. Matthew was not directly commended for faith, but it is obvious in the story that he believed in Jesus because he left everything to follow. His faith was a witness to others who wanted to learn more about Jesus. The people who looked toward the law to define the ďfaithfulĒ were set aside so that true faith could be seen in those that were rejected in the religious world.

Jesus did not simply forgive the sins of the people He encountered. He forgave the Sin that separates us from our Father. Sin is a power that controls us that manifests in the sins, the things we do. Sin causes us to relate to idols rather than having faith in God, and it causes us to be immoral or unjust rather than love our neighbors. Jesus offers the promise of eternal life that comes from faith that leads us to a life where we relate to our neighbors according to Godís Word. Jesus healed many people of their physical ailments, but He also spoke words of forgiveness into their lives. The people were constantly amazed by Jesusí authority, which was so much more than the religious leaders with whom they had entrusted their spiritual lives. They could see that Jesus was concerned about so much more than obedience to some man-made rules. He was concerned about the whole being: body, mind, and spirit.

Why do we do the things we do? I once heard an interview with a young man who suffered from obsessive compulsive behaviors. He found it necessary to repeatedly do some things like touch certain buttons or check certain switches. These behaviors were not harmful, though they seemed quite silly and a waste of time. Yet, he couldnít move on to other things until he had completed his ritual. He didnít think the behavior was selfish because he was certain something bad could happen if he did not complete his rituals, something that might have even hurt others. In a humorous way, he suggested that if we didnít want the world to end then we should support him in his behavior so that he could continue doing it to keep us safe from harm.

We all have rituals that are part of our lives. I may not be compulsive like the young man in the interview, but I often find myself doing compulsive things that I donít understand. Do you have to do certain things when you get ready for work in the morning or do you follow a specific pattern in the way you clean up after dinner? Do you spend Sunday afternoon in front of the television with a game and the newspaper? Some people are almost fanatical about the order in which they read the Sunday news. If they find their paper is disorder, it ruins their day.

We might never be able to answer why we do some of the things that we do. An obsessive compulsive canít give a reason for their rituals and neither can the guy who has to read the paper a certain way every Sunday. On the other hand, we all have some behaviors that we do with a definite motive in mind. We work eighteen hours a day because we want to get ahead in our job, or we want the financial benefits. We walk daily to be healthy. We choose the food we eat for a reason, whether it is for health reasons or because we really like certain foods. Most of our behaviors have a specific motivation, good or bad, and it is valuable to look at our motives when thinking about the things that we do. We have certain motivations when we go to church.

Is it habit or duty? Is it because we are looking for something? Do we enjoy the fellowship with other Christians? There are plenty of good reasons to gather with other Christians each week, though many Christians go for all the wrong reasons. They are doing their duty and nothing more. Their hearts are not in it. Is it harmful for them to attend worship when they don't feel like being there? No, just like the obsessive compulsive whose behaviors do not harm others, the worship martyr who thinks of his or her presence at church is a sacrifice will not harm the worship of others. Besides, God may just break down that hardened heart and touch that Christian in a new and deeper way. Duty is not necessarily a bad thing; we all have days when we would rather not do what we should do, and we do so only out of duty. Unfortunately, duty is turned into law all too easily.

In Paulís letter to the Romans, we are reminded that the Law does not bring righteousness, only faith can do so. Abraham did not even have the Law, but he was counted as righteous. We too are made right with God through the same faith as our father Abraham. There is no promise in the Law, and thus no hope. What hope did Abraham have? His body was old, well beyond the childbearing years, as was Sarahís. As he grew older, the possibility of seeing the promise of children as numerous as the stars grew less likely. Yet, Abraham had hope because he had faith in the promise of God. He continued to go forth according to Godís word, not because he thought it would bring him blessings but because he was living in thanksgiving for what God would do.

So, why do we live the life we are called to live? Matthew left everything to follow Jesus. Did he do that out of a sense of duty or faith? Do we go to worship because we might get something out of it like a spark of faith, a message of hope, a little food for our souls? Why do we go out into the world to share the Gospel message of forgiveness with others? Is it because we think we will get some great reward for doing God's work? Do we do it because we feel it is our duty as Christians?

I never understood why my friend lied to me about who she was. The hurts she suffered, not only from me, but also from others who thought they knew her, could have been avoided if sheíd been honest with us. We also need to be honest with ourselves and God. Who are we? Why do we do what we do? Sadly, we are much more like the Israelites than we want to be. We get ourselves into trouble, hiding behind lies. We donít always know the God who saved us or understand His purpose for our lives. We are not always motivated by love or praise of God but do what we do out of duty to the expectations of the law and the people. We try to be obedient to the rules, but we often lose touch with the intent of what God has for His people.

Our motivation matters. Where is our heart? We donít make sacrifices as they did in the days of Hosea or Jesus. We donít sacrifice animals, but we do sacrifice our time, our leisure, and our finances. We should not be going into worship with an attitude of mourning over what we think we have lost. Christ comes to heal those who come in faith. He comes to bring reconciliation between people, calling the sick into a relationship with Him so that He can change them and make them whole. He doesnít need us to be there. He doesnít need our time or our money. He desires our joy and our worship. Like the psalmist, we seek Godís blessing and ask for His help so we can live our best life according to His Word. Jesus wants us to know Him, to recognize His presence in our lives, and to go forth in faith and joy. He calls us into fellowship, not to suffer together or meet our needs, but to worship Him with our whole hearts.

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A WORD FOR TODAY, June 6, 2023

ďShout for joy to Yahweh, all you lands! Serve Yahweh with gladness. Come before his presence with singing. Know that Yahweh, he is God. It is he who has made us, and we are his. We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, and bless his name. For Yahweh is good. His loving kindness endures forever, his faithfulness to all generations.Ē Psalm 100, WEB

Many students have celebrated the last day of school, and others will soon join them in the fun of summer vacation. One of the favorite things for many children is camp of some sort, like Vacation Bible School. Several churches I know have already started their week of teaching the children about Jesus. Helping at Sunday school and VBS were ways that I first became involved in church activities, and I went into education because of those experiences. I continued to work as a teacher or helper when my own children began to attend, and then they became helpers as they grew older. It has been such a joy to watch them grow up into leaders that willingly share their love of Jesus with others. Now my daughter is a Youth and Family minister, planning and running her own childrenís ministries.

These programs impact our kids, but no impact is so great as the music that we sing. Decades after my own experiences with childrenís ministry Iím still reminded of those songs I learned in those days. Sometimes it just takes reading a scripture text to make me break out in song. Some of those songs remind me of people I knew then. In particular I can see the deaconess who led the music teaching the hand movements to the songs.

Music is a wonderful way to learn. When we were little children, we learned so many things through music. Sesame Street taught, and still teaches, valuable life lessons through the song. Which child did not learn their letters by singing the Alphabet Song? Every child in Sunday school learned about the love of God with the classic, ďJesus loves me.Ē Music is not only fun, but it also writes the words and ideas upon our hearts. They become so much a part of us that we find ourselves humming our favorite songs or hymns as we go about our daily task. The music in our soul keeps us close to the things we love.

In ancient lands there were minstrels or bards who traveled from town to town to tell their stories and sing their songs. This is how the history of the nation was remembered from generation to generation. Even the Hebrews sang such songs. Many of the Psalms recount the creation of the world and the exodus from Egypt and the wonderful works of Godís hands. These psalms were hymns sung in worship in the temples as well as in their homes. Mothers used them to teach their children about God. Through the passing of these stories, every generation of Israel knew the mighty deeds of the Lord God Almighty. The stories gave the people courage, hope, and peace. They edified their warriors and built up the nationís faith in Godís promises as they looked back upon the victories of their past. Israel was always blessed when they were living in Godís Word and remembering His mercy.

Todayís psalm reminds me of the songs that we sing with the children vacation bible school and in other childrenís ministry programs. The songs are simple, easy to remember, with catchy tunes so the children learn them quickly. Those same songs often drive the mothers crazy for weeks because they are so catchy that the children sing them over and over again.

Those old Sunday school songs come back to me as I read todayís passage. I can hear us singing ďIíve got the joy down in my heartĒ and ďEnter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart.Ē These songs remind us of the joy of living in relationship with God, of being joyful in His presence. It is in the power of music that we are able to remember the simplest but most important things about God. He has written His Word on our hearts, and we can easily reach for those words in the songs that we hold dear. In our singing or humming or words of praise, we keep God close to us, remembering His truth and sharing them with the world. Shout for joy and sing joyful songs, give Him thanks and praise His name! Jesus loves me, this I know, and Iíll sing with joy and thanksgiving in my heart because He has made us, and we are His!

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.

The Birth of our Saviour

The Story of our Saviour's Passion

The Crucifixion, a fictional perspective

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