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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.

(Click for enlarged)

A WORD FOR TODAY, August 18, 2022

“However, I consider those things that were gain to me as a loss for Christ. Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith, that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death, if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:7-12, WEB

I’ve been reading what life was like in the days of Paul. His letters are filled with metaphors from the life he lived; he talks about sports, family, military, and city life. He grew up in a city; you can see in his letters and the examples that he uses that he was cosmopolitan. Some suggest that Paul teaches a different Gospel from Jesus. One reason is that his language is so different, so the message sounds different. Jesus’ parables are more focused on agrarian life and vineyards, country or small-town life. How could they be saying the same thing? Jesus came from an Eastern (Middle East) culture, but Paul came from a Western (Greco-Roman) culture. Their world views were different, but the Gospel remains the same.

The message is the same, the way of saying it is different. Paul grew up in the city. The first century urbanization was second only to our time. Life revolved around the cities in the Roman world. There were differences between then and now. We have urban sprawl, but they were confined by walls. We tend to think that multi-level buildings were a recent development because of modern engineering and elevators; who could walk up more than a few flights of stairs every day? But some buildings in Rome and other ancient cities were as much as six floors high because there was no room within the cities to build wider buildings, so they had to expand up.

The cities dealt with so many problems, like the lack of water and the overabundance of sewage. It was dangerous to be out after dark, and the people hid behind locked doors. The people were crammed in, especially the poor who were forced to live in tiny spaces at the tops of those ancient skyscrapers. When disease came, it took many. Fire was a particular fear because once something began to burn, the fire often took whole blocks and cities. The problems of that ancient world may have manifested differently than today, but doesn’t this paragraph sound familiar?

When I drive through the cities in our nation, I always pass through neighborhoods that are falling apart. They are dirty and dangerous. The poor are living in unlivable conditions. Those buildings might have running water, but in too many of them the water is nasty and unhealthy. It may seem hard for most of us to believe, but many of those buildings do not have adequate plumbing. Large families live in small rooms, and do not have good access to waste disposal. In those ancient cities, the sewage and garbage ran in the streets; it was said you could smell Rome before you could see it. Sadly, sometimes, human waste is still found in our streets today. You don’t want to be on the city streets at night now any more than then. Fire and disease are still very real fears for those who live in crowded buildings.

This was the world in which Paul lived, which is why his examples seem so different from Jesus. Yet, sometimes I think we moderns can understand Paul much better than Jesus because we are more familiar with his Greco-Roman world view. We are more likely to understand city life than vineyards. Imagine being Paul, walking through a city, seeing the waste along the roads and thinking about his own life and faith. In today’s passage, he sees every good thing about his life as refuse, as the sewage running down the street, because the promise of Christ is so much better than anything in this world. The New Jerusalem, the city where we will dwell for eternity will not be dirty or dangerous or unhealthy. It will be perfect. For today, we press on toward the promise that is ours and will be ours forever through faith in Jesus Christ.

If you would like to contact me, please use the following address, replacing the bracketed words with the symbol. Thank you for your continued interest, prayers and messages of encouragement.

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A WORD FOR TODAY, August 17, 2022

Lectionary Scriptures for August 21, 2022, Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Isaiah 66:18-23; Psalm 50:1-15; Hebrews 12:4-24 (25-29); Luke 13:22-30

“‘For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me,’ says Yahweh, ‘so your offspring and your name shall remain.’” Isaiah 66:22, WEB

I was busy working on my writing a couple weeks ago when my computer suddenly went black. My computer has been on its last legs for some time, but I put off buying a new one. I did purchase an external hard drive and I was in the process of moving my files to it. I hoped that removing some of my photos would help my computer run better. I was running out of space. I had not yet completed that task when my computer went black. I was procrastinating because it is such a pain to have to reinstall my programs, to remember all my passwords, to learn a new operating system.

I was worried when my screen went black. Would I be able to get my files, most of which were from two decades of my writing? I was able to reboot and the devotion I was writing at the time had been saved, so I didn’t have to start all over again. The computer continued to work, but I finished moving all my files and made arrangements to purchase a new computer and have it set up as soon as I could. I made sure that I bought a computer that had plenty of memory so that when I am working on photos, I won’t take too much space. I take a lot of photos, and photos use a lot of memory.

I made sure that I purchased a computer that had at least a terabyte of memory. That is a lot of memory. A terabyte is one trillion bytes of information. The earliest computers had a fraction of that amount. As a matter of fact, Bill Gates in 1980 said, “640K ought to be enough for anybody.” That’s just 640,000 bytes. My raw photos from Germany equaled nearly 80 billion bytes! My best photos, about a thousand of them, equaled nearly 7 billion bytes. Most cell phones these days have at least 100,000 times the memory of those first computers forty years ago.

In 1977, Ken Olson, the president of Digital Equipment Corporation said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” In 1968, an engineer at IBM responding to the microchip said, “But what… is it good for?” In 1943, Thomas Watson, the chairman of IBM said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” We now know that those men seriously had no idea where technology would go in just a few decades.

There is a wide variety of low cost electronic gadgets this day. I had a scientific calculator for school many decades ago, and the cost was significantly more than many cell phones today. And my cell phone can do so much more! You don’t need to buy a DVD player or television anymore because you can watch movies digitally on watches. New computers are far more advanced than the original ones and are so inexpensive that nearly everyone can have one in their homes. The sale aisles are filled with new gadgets for the kitchen that dice, chop, bake, grill or freeze anything you want to cook. The toy stores have hundreds of new and improved items that will satisfy the desires of any child. Just about everything has one of those microchips that the engineer at IBM questioned.

All this technology has impacted our lives in many ways, and it has not always been positive. Spend five minutes reading social media and you know what I’m talking about. Yet, I would not want to live in any other time of history. I like my gadgets. I like being able to instantly see how the traffic is or where the weather radar shows rainfall. I can put my laundry and dishes into machines that do all the hard work for me, giving me time to do other things. The new is better than the old.

And yet, we aren’t very good at change. It took me too long to deal with my dying computer, so long that I almost lost thousands of important files. I get frustrated when my favorite store moves things around so I can’t find what I need on my shopping list. I miss certain aspects of worship when we try something new. I’m set in my ways, and though I’ve always claimed to be able to adapt, I grumble when things are not as I expect them to be.

When the Hebrews left Egypt, they camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Moses went up into the mountain to talk to God, but he was there a very long time. Some of the people thought he surely must be dead, and so they suggested going back to the old ways of worship. What good is a God that would take away their leader, so they turned to the religion that made more sense to them. It was easier to worship a golden calf they could see than to worship the God that they could not see.

The writer of the book of Hebrews wrote that these people could not bear to even listen to the Word of God because they were afraid. It was much the same for the people in Jesus’ day. They trembled, but not at the foot of the mountain. They trembled at the foot of the Law, out of fear that they would do something against God. They listened to the council of the leaders who burdened them with long lists of rules and taught that God’s grace depended on their obedience. They did not trust in God’s grace.

The writer of Hebrews gives us two visions of life under the rule of God. In the first there is fear. The people stood at the base of Mount Sinai, receiving the Law as given to Moses. That mountain was fearsome -- not even an animal could set foot on it. Anyone who touched it would be stoned. The people were so frightened by the sound of God’s voice that they begged Moses to be an intercessor. Even Moses was terrified and trembling with fear.

But there is another way to live in God’s Kingdom: by faith. This means trusting God. God disciplined His people when they turned from Him at the foot of that mountain. It was punishing, but full of grace because He did not reject or abandon them. Instead, He called them to repentance and drew them into Himself. He remained faithful to His promises, and they learned to trust in Him. It didn’t happen overnight. As a matter of fact, He had to teach them that lesson over and over again. The story of God’s people has always followed the same pattern since the beginning: faith, wandering, discipline, repentance and faith. We hear this throughout the history of Israel and throughout the history of the Christian church. We wander because we want to go through the big door, to follow the wide path. We want to do things our own way.

The question in today’s Gospel lesson is whether we are walking through the wide or the narrow gate. The Hebrews chose the wide gate when Moses was gone too long. It was the easy way. Waiting is hard, there are few (if any) humans who have the kind of patience we need to trust in God. His timing is never our timing. The people in Jesus’ day also went through the wide gate, choosing to follow the council of men rather than Jesus. By following the Law, we can be in control. Even if we err, at least we are doing it by our own will.

The wide door (or path, or gate) is the easy way. When we lived in England, I was fascinated by the doors, especially those of the cathedrals. They have huge front doors, made of thick wood made sturdy with iron belts. The churches were often the last line of defense against an enemy, so they were built like fortresses. The huge doors are well taller than a man, perhaps two or three stories high, so large that they seem impractical. Those doors are rarely opened because it takes several men to do so. They were generally used only for ceremonial purposes; processions could easily enter through them, including men on horseback.

There was no need to open these larger doors because a smaller door was always cut into the larger one for regular use. Unfortunately, these smaller doors are often very small. I am not tall, but I usually had to bend to walk through. I always thought about today’s Gospel lesson when I entered a church through one of those doors. The big doors, the wide path, is easier to go through, but Jesus reminds us that the way of Christ is never the easy way. It is a narrow door. These smaller doors are not only more practical, but they also remind us to follow the narrow path.

One door in Israel is even smaller than those doors in England. It is called the “Door of Humility,” and is the way into the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Not only do you have to bend to walk through, but you must stoop quite deeply. There is no other door. There is no wider path. This door reminds us that we are entering a holy place where God Himself entered our world as flesh and blood. We bow in humility, honoring the One who is our LORD.

Moses delivered a covenant from God to His people. This covenant was a promise that God would always be with them. The people saw the awesome power of God as they moved into the Promised Land, defeated their enemies, and settled into the life of blessing promised to their forefathers. The LORD asked only that the people obey His commands; to keep themselves separate from those who worshipped other gods. This command was for their own protection, since union with the pagans would lead to their own worship of those gods.

We have seen that happen throughout history, and even in our time. Though we talk about Jesus and live as a part of the Church, we get lost in the culture of our world and forget, at times, that God has warned us to be careful that we do not follow the ways of the world. We forget that the door is narrow, and we open the big doors to let everything in. There are those who talk about how the church should be a big tent, able to hold all thought and beliefs. This leads us to worshipping the wrong things, for chasing after a false Gospel, for doing what seems right but is not according to God’s will and purpose for our lives.

The reading from Isaiah is a message of judgment and hope. God said, “For I know their works and their thoughts.” God knows our hearts; He knows what we do and don’t do. He said, “The time comes that I will gather all nations and languages, and they will come, and will see my glory.” He promises to set a sign for all to see His glory, and by that sign to know that He is God. That sign is Jesus. We see in Jesus the love, mercy and grace of the Father, as well as His glory. He is the door. He is the light. He is the way. He is not just the narrow path; He is the only path. Those who believe this will survive the judgment; those who reject Jesus will not.

I’ve seen a lot of church doors, but I once worshipped at a church that had the most magnificent door I’ve ever seen. The church was old; the congregation was the first in Pittsburgh, but the building was only about a hundred years old. It was obvious from some of the architecture that some parts of the building were newer than that, but it was a splendid building that was much like those I’d experienced throughout Europe.

What I liked about that church is that the magnificent door did not lead into the church, but was inside the church. There was a large archway over the high altar, which led to a room behind it. The space was set with tables and chairs, like a banquet hall. The door was nearly three stories tall and it divided the worship space from that banqueting hall. I imagine that it is often used for weddings with the door closed, separating the ceremony from the party. The door was concave, so when it was closed behind the altar it appeared almost cave-like, giving space for movement during worship. It was made of the most beautiful wood, and it was so smooth that it shined.

I wish that it had been closed during our worship, but there was something wonderful about the imagery of that banquet hall. The door into the church from the street was average, although beautiful. It was the size of a normal church door, although quite small compared to the one inside. As I considered the story in today’s Gospel lesson, I loved the imagery of getting into the church by the small door, but the door to the banqueting hall is large enough for everyone.

Many Christians really like to sit in the back of the church. Parents with small church often do so because they don’t want their fidgety kids to disturb the other people. I learned that sitting in the front row actually helps a child connect to the worship; they can see, so they don’t get so fidgety. They also learn quickly how to behave in church. Others sit in the back because they are afraid that the pastor will see them falling asleep during the sermon. As one who has preached, I can assure you that the preacher sees you anyway. I recently learned that most people try to sit near the doorway, either out of safety concerns or because they want to get out quickly.

All too often, the people who sit in the front rows are those who get to church late because the back pews are already full. So, we get there early to get the “best” seats, so that the latecomers get “stuck” in the front. But when I saw this huge, beautiful door leading to that banquet hall, I thought that if there were a banquet in that room after worship, it might be best to get stuck in one of the front pews, because then you would be the first into the banqueting hall! After all, Jesus said that the last will be first.

This Gospel lesson has a warning for Christians. We are encouraged to be more than just believers; we are to be disciples. Some people who appear to be among the faithful will not be recognized by Jesus. They are the ones who do not want to enter heaven through the narrow door; they get lost in the culture of our world and forget that God has warned us to stay on the right path. We forget that the door is narrow, and we open the big doors to let everything in. This leads us to worshipping with half-heartedness, focusing on the wrong things, and even chasing after a false Gospel. We all too often do what seems right but is not according to God’s will and purpose for our lives. We follow the wide road because it is easier, but the true path leads to eternal life.

God warns us not to follow the ways of the world. Those of us with faith in Christ have been welcomed into the Kingdom and are invited to the eternal banquet. We are given a life that isn’t restrained by a set of rules but is made righteous by the blood of Jesus. This is a life God wants for everyone; He has promised to share it with all the nations. Will Jesus open the door for us if we are silent and conforming to the world? Will we who were first end up last because we are half-hearted and focused on all the wrong things?

A story is told of a dream a man once had of worship from the perspective of heaven. An angel took him into church one Sunday. Everything was normal; the people were singing with the musicians and listening to the minister speaking God’s 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.

The psalmist dwelt at a time when the people were giving many offerings and sacrifices to God, but they were not giving Him their hearts. Though we do not kill bulls or lambs in our modern worship, what are we offering to God? Do we grumble when we write our weekly check? Do we moan as we roll out of bed on a Sunday morning? Do we make excuses as to why we can’t be at church this week? Is our worship silent in heaven because we are thinking about the cares of this world or checking our cell phones, turning our attention away from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ? Just like the Jews in days of old, it is almost as if we think that God needs our bodies there at worship, but what He truly wants is our hearts.

God expects more from us than attendance on Sunday, too. Worship should not be limited to an hour a week and it is meant to go beyond the church doors. The psalmist wrote that God is not looking for our sacrifices. He doesn’t need our bulls because they are already His; we cannot give Him anything that doesn’t already belong to Him. 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 spiritual worship will focus entirely on Him, not only during a worship service but always. That worship will bring blessings.

The greatest act of spiritual sacrifice is to share the Gospel with our neighbors, even when doing so puts us at risk. God wants us to be missionaries, to share His Word with the world whether across the sea or in our own backyards. He wants us to invite more people into His presence. He wants us to lead them through the narrow door, to help them see that any other path leads to nothing. God is calling us to bring them into the Church so that they too might join in the eternal banquet. If we accept that whatever they believe is good enough, we condemn them to a judgment that will lead to death rather than life.

We are saved from the wrath of God for a purpose: to take God’s glory into the world. Isaiah talks of bringing others to Jerusalem as an offering to God. This is an interesting image, and one we should seriously consider if we are to be Church in today’s world. We often think it is enough to give God our money, time, and our talents, but what God really wants is for us to bring more people to Him. He owns everything! As the psalmist wrote, He is not looking for our sacrifices. He doesn’t need our bulls because they are already His.

But He wants us to be missionaries, to share His Word with the world whether across the sea or in our own backyards. He wants us to invite more people into His presence. He wants us to lead them through the narrow door, to help them see that any other path leads to nothing. God is calling us to bring them into the Church so that they too might join in the eternal banquet.

Faith is not easy because it means giving ourselves over to God. There’s always a way that seems better to us and the world. Only those who walk through the narrow door will be left to dwell in His presence for eternity. This is particularly hard to proclaim in a world where everything is good and acceptable. The narrow door is too limiting, the narrow path is too restraining. Yet, it is there we’ll find the grace that saves.

Isaiah writes, “‘For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me,’ says Yahweh, ‘so your offspring and your name shall remain. It shall happen that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh will come to worship before me,’ says Yahweh.” We should not assume that this is true now, or that it is true that all faiths will be part of this joyous worship. Only those who walk through the narrow door, who believe in Jesus, will dwell in His presence for eternity. God does not want anyone to perish, and He’s calling us to lead them toward true life. We do so in work and in action; our faith is made obvious in our passion to share the Gospel with the world. But too many of us do not have that passion, in church or in our daily lives.

I love living in this time with access to so many wonderful and helpful gadgets that went so far beyond the expectations of those who were creating the technology. I love living in this time with Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Everything old was made new again when Jesus came to dwell among us fulfilling God’s promises. He was born to bring forgiveness for our failure and to give us the power to live in His grace. We do not have to be frightened to stand in the presence of God our Father, because Jesus stands before us as mediator. The Old Testament is filled with predictions about how God will deal with His people which were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. There was great blessing in living in a covenant with God, being obedient to His commands. I would not want to live in any other time than now, in the New Covenant brought forth by Jesus no matter how difficult it is to stay on the narrow path to our destination of the great banquet in heaven.

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