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
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)
Thank you for your patience and your prayers. Things are looking better. Recovery will take some time, but we are moving in the right direction.
“Preserve me, God, for I take refuge in you. My soul, you have said to Yahweh, ‘You are my Lord. Apart from you I have no good thing.’ As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight. Their sorrows shall be multiplied who give gifts to another god. Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, nor take their names on my lips. Yahweh assigned my portion and my cup. You made my lot secure. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Yes, I have a good inheritance. I will bless Yahweh, who has given me counsel. Yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons. I have set Yahweh always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices. My body shall also dwell in safety. For you will not leave my soul in Sheol, neither will you allow your holy one to see corruption. You will show me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy. In your right hand there are pleasures forever more.” Psalm 16, WEB
I saw a photo this morning of a child receiving a teddy bear as a gift. The child’s face showed sheer joy. It was a simple thing, a little thing, yet the child lit up with love and excitement and thankfulness. The photo came out of a ministry in Africa, and it is likely that child’s family have many real world problems. Children don’t know how to worry about those problems. It isn’t about foolishness or irresponsibility. Children trust, and while they might sometimes be hungry or thirsty, they believe in those who have promised to help. They find joy in the little things.
The Gospels tells about moments when Jesus called the little children to sit with Him. The disciples rebuked the parents who brought their children to be blessed by Him. Jesus said, “Allow the little children, and don’t forbid them to come to me; for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to ones like these.” I can imagine that the children at Jesus’ feet had the same look on their faces as that child in the photo with the teddy bear. They knew real joy being in the presence of Jesus. They trusted Him with a faith that was not based on some intellectual understanding, but rather an innocent and sincere love.
We belonged to a church that went through a renovation project. We doubled the size of our building by adding a beautiful new sanctuary and plenty of classroom space. Each week, we were surprised by the latest change in the building. One day the walls are painted, another the floors laid. The furniture was fitted into place. After many months of construction chaos, we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our work was nearly complete.
One week we found new cushions had been installed onto the pews. The cushions were made of very firm three-inch foam. They looked nice in the sanctuary and were comfortable. There was only one problem: the cushion raised us high enough that our feet no longer touched the floors, especially those of us who were short. Our pastor was a very tall man and had no idea this would happen. During the announcements, one woman joked, “We need footstools!” Pastor walked around looking down each pew to see his congregation swinging their feet, just like children. We laughed together at the silliness of it all, and began worship with a childlike joy in our hearts. I think we all sang a little louder and prayed a little freer because of that joy.
How many times do we go to church and find ourselves annoyed by the little children who can’t sit still? They are constantly moving, swinging their feet, kicking the back of the pew. They whisper and whine, laugh and cry, play with their toy airplanes by crawling over the other members of the congregation. Yet somehow, in the midst of their play, they hear the story of Jesus and know that He loves them. They sing along as best they can, even conduct the choir at times. They share in the prayers by joining in voice as we say the liturgy, because those words of God have been written on their hearts. They sing a little louder and with so much joy. They love Jesus and they say so loudly, even when it seems inappropriate to do so. We are tempted to be like the disciples, to rebuke their parents and try to send the children away, but Jesus knows better. He invites us to be like those little children, to sit at His feet with joy, putting aside the troubles of the moment to bask in His presence.
The psalmist knew that every good thing comes from God. It is in His presence we find refuge and many blessings, and His gifts bring us gladness. Faith in Him will see the fulfillment of all His promises. In Him there is reason to shine. For one day, our congregation knew what it was like to be like a little child in worship. We swung our feet to the music, sang loud and with that joy that comes in the knowledge that Jesus loves us. If only we could always be more like the child in that picture I saw today, with faces of pure joy, shining with the love and excitement and thankfulness we have for all the simple gifts God has given us, especially His presence in our lives.
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Scriptures for February 28, 2021, Second Sunday in Lent: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-38
“Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5, WEB
“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 my school age literature classes. 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 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 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.
But God is faithful even when we are not. Our faithlessness comes because God is not fulfilling His promises according to our expectations. Abram 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 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 descendents continued to consecrate themselves before the Lord, they would receive His blessings.
It is obvious in today’s text that something changed with Abram and Sarai, something was new. God gave them new names. 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. The English language alphabet is much different than the Hebrew alphabet. We do not necessarily understand what really happened 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 the letters have special meaning.
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 would be different because God was irrevocably intertwined in them. By adding the “h” to Abram’s name, the Lord God Almighty added His breath, His life, His Spirit into the life of Abram. Abraham was now fully a part of God’s kingdom; the vassal that would become the father of many nations. In this passage we see God taking hold of them and giving them everything they need to become what He has planned.
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 child bearing. Yet, Abraham believes God and trusts that God will 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.”
Our cross is not some suffering we have to endure. 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 of the cross. They don’t want to hear that they are sinners in need of a Savior. They don’t think they need to be saved. They think there are many roads to heaven and are unwilling to accept that the only way to inherit the kingdom of God is through death and the grave, specifically Jesus’ death. The message of the cross is foolishness. We are ashamed to speak these words to our neighbors because we live in a world that demands something different.
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. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry Satan tried to tempt Jesus to turn from the path that God planned for Him, which was the path to the cross. In today’s text, at the other end of His ministry, Satan tried to tempt Jesus away from God’s plan through Peter.
God opened Abraham and Sarah’s hearts, revealed His purpose for their lives; He promised them greatness and took hold of them so that He could give them everything they needed to become what He planned. He does the same for us. We might not have a name change like Abraham and Sarah, but we are God’s and He has a plan for our lives.
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 have trust and confidence in God’s plan, knowing that only He can make things work out right.
Faith doesn’t always lead to what we call blessing.
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.
In 2006, a girl named Kristi Yamaoka earned her fifteen minutes of fame in a terrible accident at a basketball game. Kristi was a cheerleader for Southern Illinois University and her cheer squad was building a pyramid during a time out near the end of an extremely important game. Kristi fell off the pyramid and fell on her head. They stopped the game while medical staff dealt with her injury. They were very concerned that Kristi would be permanently injured, so every care was taken to keep her still. Video of the fall hit the airwaves from national news reports to YouTube. The game was a close one, and the crowds were noisy with spirit. The minute Kristi fell, however, the gym went silent.
Kristy is remembered for how she dealt with her injury. She did not want to leave the game. The medical team insisted that Kristi be taken to the hospital, but even as she was being taken on a stretcher, Kristi continued to cheer. Her coach cautioned her to stop but the medical team said she would be fine, so Kristi showed her spirit by performing the fight song routine on the stretcher. Though she was injured she said, “My biggest concern was that I didn’t want my squad to be distracted, so that they could continue cheering on the team, and I didn’t want my team to be distracted from winning the game,” she said. Kristi recovered completely. She’d suffered a chipped neck vertebra, concussion, and bruised lung but was released from the hospital just two days later. She had no problem securing her place on the cheer squad for the next school year.
Have you ever known a Christian who is so filled with Christ that he or she can continue praising God even in the midst of tragedy and pain? Kristi’s coach said, “She’s 100 percent school spirit.” Though the focus of her excitement was different, Kristi reminds us of a passionate Christian. Faith-filled Christians can praise God from a wheelchair and speak about hope at a funeral.
From the stretcher on her way out of the game Kristi said, “I am a cheerleader.” She had to cheer. It was her identity and her work. How many people can say “I am a Christian,” and live their life so fully immersed in who they are in Christ that they can’t help but live in praise and worship to God? Do we walk around living in the Spirit of God? There are a few, but very few, people about whom it might be said, “He (or she) is 100 percent spirit,” because we get caught up in the troubles and pains of this world. It doesn’t take much for us to lose sight of God. His greatest gift is life, the true life that comes from the forgiveness that our Lord Jesus Christ won for us on His cross. We are called to live fully in that gift so that the world might see the grace of God and believe.
Paul lists a number of ways we can love and encourages us to live in the love of God. Without a doubt, none of us could do it without God’s abiding love. We could not care for others, consider others first, or serve the Lord if He had not first loved us. The world knows that God is love, but it is hard for the world to see God’s love when Christians often appear so unloving.
Unfortunately, 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.
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 think they should be, but they will be exactly as God intends. So, let us take up our cross, His cross, and follow Him, speaking the Gospel into a world that so desperately needs God’s salvation. We are Christians: we have to be Christ-like, spirit-filled and led. It won’t be easy, we may even suffer, but in the end we will see God’s promise of reconciliation be fulfilled and we will share in His glory forever.
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