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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, June 20, 2024

“In the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It’s a ghost!’ and they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Cheer up! It is I! Don’t be afraid.’ Peter answered him and said, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the waters.’ He said, ‘Come!’ Peter stepped down from the boat and walked on the waters to come to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was strong, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand, took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got up into the boat, the wind ceased. Those who were in the boat came and worshiped him, saying, ‘You are truly the Son of God!’” Matthew 14:25-33, WEB

My son and I were walking together one day when he realized that we were walking in step. The moment he called it to my attention, we went out of stride. He tried desperately to get back into the rhythm, but the more he tried, the harder it was for him. He gave up, until a few moments later he realized we were doing it again. Then, as soon as he tried to keep it going, we lost it. This happened repeatedly throughout the walk, as my son tried hard to keep to my rhythm, but the more he tried, the harder it was to do.

I was involved with the marching band in my school days. We practiced for hours so that our marching would be synchronized. No matter how well we worked together, there were always incidents of people getting out of step. It is comical to watch a band member try to get back into the rhythm during a parade. The harder they try, the more they fail. We learned with all that practice that keeping in step was natural when we focused on the music and routine rather than our feet.

It was natural for us to walk in step when my son and I were just walking along and chatting about things. He didn’t realize that it was when he turned his attention away from our conversation to his feet that it became difficult to keep it going. He tried too hard to do something that was natural with no work at all. We do the same in our walk with the Lord. All too often we are so busy thinking about the work we think we have to do that we forget to focus on our relationship with God. The more we think about the work, the harder it is to stay in step with God’s will and purpose for our lives.

The good fruit that we produce in our walk with God is a natural response to our relationship with Him. It doesn’t take a lot of thought or work. We must simply trust Him and walk with Him, and by the power of His Holy Spirit, we’ll be able to even walk on the water. However, we spend so much of our time trying to keep in step with Jesus, that we lose the rhythm and miss out on the joy of being in His presence. Today, just walk with Him and do not doubt. He will accomplish a great work through that trust.

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, June 19, 2024

Lectionary Scriptures for June 23, 2024, Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Job 38:1-11; Psalm 124; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41

“Our help is in Yahweh’s name, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 124:8, WEB

Psalms 120-134 are grouped together and are called the Songs of Ascents. They were not written together. Some are attributed to David (122, 124, 131, 133), Solomon (127), several are from after the exile, and others may be attributed to descendants of David. The editor of the Psalter, perhaps Ezra, grouped these together and added the title for each of the psalms: “A Song of Ascents”. They are all relatively short. The longest is only 18 verses and the rest are under ten verses, some with two only three verses each. This makes it possible to sing them all together, making them as if they are one psalm.

It is possible that they were already being used by pilgrims traveling toward Jerusalem for a festival at the time of editing, but they were definitely used in liturgical form afterwards. They are songs of ascent because Jerusalem was on a mountain, and pilgrims ascended upward to get to the Temple and closer to God. The experts disagree at how they were used, whether specifically during the climb on the stairs to leading up to the temple, or as a song for spiritual ascent, or musically, with each ascent rising in musical pitch. There are some who believe they were sung as the pilgrims approached Jerusalem from outlying areas to worship during the festival’s physical and spiritual journey. You can almost imagine the exiles singing these songs as they returned from Babylon. Psalm 120 begins with the singer far from God, bemoaning his location in a foreign land.

The focus is on Jerusalem or Zion, which according to the psalmist is located on the highest mountain in the world. We know that this isn’t true, but it was sung because of its spiritual significance. These Psalms go back and forth between lament and celebration, just like our life’s journey. We struggle and we praise. We lament and thank God for His blessings. These psalms cover every aspect of prayer: adoration, supplication, thanksgiving, intercession and confession. This makes them a valuable tool in our prayer practices, thus useful spiritually. Most people pray especially when they are in trouble, and these psalms have been used as a way to pray for our nation. Though we are in no way Zion, we struggle just as Israel struggled so long ago. We can see our own lament in these psalms, and the songs remind us to also see the blessings.

It is important to remember not to focus only on our greatness, but to remember our failures. Confession is part of prayer. We will easily lament, but we also need to praise God not only for our current blessings, but also His answers to our prayers that we have not yet seen. We need to pray in confidence that God is doing a good work among us even if it seems that nothing is going right in our land. Psalm 123 begs God to have mercy on us. Replace “Zion” in Psalm 128 with your nation and pray for God’s peace. Ask God to remind us that He will bless those who fear Him. We confess our sin before God and beg His forgiveness in Psalm 130. As you pray the psalms, ask God to open your heart and mind to how this psalm relates to your current situation and adapt the text to your here and now. These types of prayers give us comfort in difficulty because they turn our hearts and minds to trust in God when there seems to be no hope for us.

Have you ever known anyone that seems to be content no matter the circumstances of their life? They seem happy even when times are rough. They can find a silver lining in every cloud. They have the strength and courage to do whatever needs to be done when trouble surrounds them. I don’t know about you, but I look at these folks with wonder. I don’t know how they do it. I can’t help but worry and when someone isn’t worried about something that I would be worried about, I wonder how they can do it.

We often read today’s Gospel passage as a cry from the disciples for Jesus to help. It makes sense, after all, they were caught in a terrible storm and the boat was rocking in the waves. The bottom of the boat was probably flooded with water, threatening the stability of the vessel. The disciples, many of whom were trained fishermen, knew the dangers they faced. The boat could capsize or sink at any moment. Every hand was probably necessary to protect their lives. Even the best swimmers would have difficulty surviving those waves. But Jesus slept, and His disciples asked, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are dying?” It was a cry for help: “Help us or we will die.” And Jesus helped.

Mark tells us that Jesus slept. I don’t understand because I have trouble sleeping when I’m in a safe, warm house during a thunderstorm. The flashes of lightning and booming thunder wake me, and I end up pacing around the house checking to be sure everything is alright. I check the weather app on my phone or turn on the television to make sure there is no chance for tornadoes or hail, ready to wake my family and move them to a safer place in the house if necessary. There is no way I could sleep aboard a boat in the middle of a dangerous storm, but Jesus slept. He wasn’t worried. How did He do that?

The disciples may have wondered, too. Their question may have been because they needed His help to keep the boat afloat, they probably didn’t understand how He could be sleeping while there was a chance that they would all die. How could He be so content in the midst of such a dangerous storm? How could He sleep? He was not worried like the others; He had a peace that gave Him the freedom to rest in the midst of the storm without fear or worry.

Jesus answered their question with help. He rebuked the storm and caused the wind to cease. He did something that put them at ease, but in His answer caused them another sort of fear: an awe-inspired fear of something far more powerful than themselves. He didn’t help them by bailing out the water. He helped by rebuking the storm. Then, He rebuked them for being afraid. He rebuked them for not having faith.

Why were they afraid? Why are we afraid?

Every generation has a “Where were you” question. Where were you when Pearl Harbor was bombed? Where were you when JFK was shot? Where were you when the astronauts walked on the moon? Where were you when the Challenger exploded? Where were you on 9/11? People can generally remember where they were when these history changing moments happened, or when they heard about it. The stories usually end up with families gathered around the television watching the events unfold.

We can ask the question about more personal events in people’s lives. Where were you when you met your spouse? Where were you when you proposed? Where were you married? Where were you when you decided what you wanted to be when you grew up? Where were you when you became a Christian?

For those of us in the military, and other transient communities, knowing where we were helps us to remember when something happened. Where were we when our son broke his finger? Where we were when the kids got that vaccination? Where were we when we bought that piece of furniture? Where were we when the song or movie or television show was popular?

The question is also used in the courtroom. The lawyer will ask the defendant, “Where were you on the night this crime happened?” The question is meant to establish an alibi for the accused. Other questions might be asked to establish the whereabouts at other important moments, like when a gun was purchased. The defense uses these questions to prove that the defendant could not be guilty because he or she was not there. The questions might be asked by the prosecutor, too, as he or she tries to put the defendant in the right place at the right time, thus proving them guilty.

God asked this question of Job in the Old Testament passage. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” God intended to establish that Job has no right to question His will and purpose. Job was not even a glimmer in his mother’s eye when God spoke creation into existence. God has been from before the beginning and after the end. Human beings are simply unable to know or understand everything about the God we worship. He wouldn’t be worthy of worship if we could. It is especially hard when God allows terrible things to happen in our lives.

We want to be angry. We want to go to court with God, to question Him, to insist on answers to our questions. But God reminds us that we weren’t there when He established the foundation of the earth, and we’ll never fully understand Him. What seems to be bad from our point of view may lead to something wonderful beyond our imagination. We know that God is faithful. We can rest in God’s promises even when it seems like things are falling apart. Where were we when God laid the foundations of the earth? We did not yet exist in the flesh, but we were loved. Of this we can be sure.

How do we look at our own troubles through worry or the eyes of faith? We want to believe that this story tells us that Jesus will stop all our storms, but the reality of life is that even people of faith do not have perfect lives. Water pours into our boats sometimes. There is plenty in our world about which we can worry and be afraid. We can certainly pray to Jesus, “Why don’t you care about how we are floundering here?” and hope that He will tell the wind and the rain to stop. But we know that the wind and the rain won’t always stop just because we’ve prayed for it to do so. Sometimes God intends for us to face the storm because it will help us to grow and learn and mature. This isn’t a story about God doing our bidding because quite frankly our response to that kind of miraculous salvation is often the same as the disciples. We wonder with awestruck fear about who this is that can calm the storm.

This story is also about being like Jesus in the midst of those storms. He asked the disciples, “Where is your faith?” He was right there. He was asleep but He was not going to let them die. As we face our storms, it might seem to us that Jesus is sleeping on a cushion at the end of the boat, but He knows what’s happening. He is with us. We might have to suffer, bailing out the boat or hanging on for dear life, but He won’t let us go. We are to have faith in the midst of those storms, to know that He is with us. He assures us with His presence and encourages us to be content even when it seems like the world around us is falling apart.

Sadly, we have seen struggles even within the Church. We are often shocked and dismayed by the scandals that have plagued the body of Christ over the years. Every denomination has been embarrassed by stories of pastors or congregation leaders who took advantage of parishioners or embezzled funds. While the Church is meant to be a place where truth and goodness are the norm, the Church is also made of very human people who sin. And they don’t often turn to truth and goodness immediately; they try to cover up their sin. They blame the victim, make excuses, or deny the situation altogether. They put up a facade and hope no one will discover what is lurking behind it.

The facades fall, the truth is revealed. Light shines on the sin. Only then can churches begin the process of healing and reconciliation. A lot of harm is done and at times it seems as though God is sleeping. Lives are ruined, both the victims and the perpetrators, and the world blames God because He seemed to be missing.

People wear facades in every aspect of life: the church, politics, families, and workplaces. We don’t always realize what’s happening behind the scenes. Politicians take bribes, parents abuse children, and coworkers will do whatever it takes to get ahead, even if it means destroying someone else’s career. Human beings hide so that the world won’t see the truth.

Paul didn’t wear a facade; he said what he was thinking. He was often accused of being too blunt and arrogant. He told the readers what was happening in his life so that it would help the reader grow in faith and discipleship. His claims sometimes seem like boasts, even those claims of bad experiences. He suffered more than others. He had more to offer. He had the right message. Read enough of Paul and you might just wonder if he was the right man to be given the role of apostle.

But God doesn’t make mistakes. Paul was exactly the man He needed; God knew Paul’s heart. Paul’s words ring harshly on our ears sometimes, but perhaps he is saying exactly what we need to hear. We need to know that there is a cost to discipleship, that it isn’t an easy path to walk. We need to know there are expectations for those who claim to follow Christ. We need to know that we will suffer for our faith. We need to be encouraged to follow his example to be all that God is calling us to be. We have to realize we are sinners in need of a Savior and that the Savior has called us to a roller coaster life that will have highs and lows, joys and pains, lessons to learn and to teach. God does not want us to be people who wear masks or facades, but rather people that are willing to speak what our hearts know is true. Honesty and integrity matter, and while we may not always like the man Paul, we can trust that Paul is honest and that his ministry had integrity. A life of truth and goodness is what we are meant to live. It is especially important to remember this when we realize that we’ve been wearing a facade, especially one that hides our lack of trust in God.

The very things that bother us about Paul might just be the very things that God wants to change in our lives. Are we complaining about our suffering? Then we need to know that suffering produces perseverance, etc. Are we having trouble forgiving our neighbor? Then we need to know that forgiveness is the only way to peace, not only between people, but also our inner peace. Are Paul’s words convicting us of our sin? Then we need to repent. Sometimes we don’t like Paul because Paul says exactly what we don’t want to hear. He doesn’t whitewash the truth because he knew that the truth would set us free. Even if it seems like the truth will make things more difficult, we will find that truth and goodness can lead to healing and reconciliation.

In today’s epistle lesson, Paul tells us that today is the day of salvation. This is marvelous news, but we have to understand what this means. Salvation is present, but it doesn’t always seem that way, does it? We know that as saved children of God we have been adopted into His family, made heirs to His kingdom. It sure doesn’t seem like we are princes and princesses. We suffer. We fail. We are persecuted. Paul tells us that he was imprisoned, beaten, and faced hardship. He suffered sleepless nights and hunger, often at the hands of those he should have been able to trust. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, he endured these things and lived a life that did not take God’s grace in vain. Paul says that we are commended by the visible life we live in Christ, even in suffering and persecution. The world may think we are wearing a facade, but if we live as God has called us to live, we can go forth doing His will without fear no matter what we face.

The world calls us deceivers because we have faith in a God that they think should be blamed for our suffering. Yet, what the world thinks does not matter; what matters is that today is the day of salvation, and we are called to live in the grace of God through the difficult times, always growing into the people He has saved us to be, glorifying God through it all. It won’t be easy. The tasks are sometimes impossible. The burdens are too heavy to carry. And we don’t always do what is right, because we are sinners in need of a Savior. But God has saved us. We are called to work in this world whatever the circumstances so that God’s grace is not in vain. We do not have to wear a facade to hide our failure because God sees our hearts and He has promised to make all things right in the end. Even when we fail, God has a way of making it come out good.

There is a story about a man who slipped and fell off a cliff while hiking on a mountaintop. On his way down he grabbed a branch. He was twenty feet from the top and a long way from the bottom. He feared for his life and cried for help. “A booming voice spoke up, ‘I am here, and I will save you if you believe in me.’ ‘I believe, I believe,’ yelled back the man. ‘If you believe me, let go of the branch and then I will save you.’” The man’s fear of death was so great he yelled, “Is there anyone else who can help?” What he didn’t know is that he was just feet from a shelf; if he let go, he would land and it would be easier to save him. It takes faith to let go and trust that our Lord will save us, but we don’t always believe the voice.

The world looks at this kind of faith and thinks we must be wearing a facade. We appear “as deceivers, and yet true.” They can’t believe that our faith is real. Faith gives us the courage to stand on truth and goodness even when the world around us is falling apart. There are some extreme examples of people in the church hiding their sinfulness, but we are all sinners who need to let down our facades and recognize our own sinfulness so that we can seek healing and reconciliation. It is never easy, but God will be glorified when the world sees His people trusting in Him as He helps us through our storms. God is glorified when we trust in Him.

We are just like Job and the disciples. We forget that God has the power to control the world around us because He laid the foundations long before we were born. Instead of trusting in Him, we try to control the world but we can’t. When we suffer the consequences of our faithlessness, we blame God. We worry. We are afraid. We are desperate. It is when we are desperate that we finally remember God; it is then that we cry out to Him. Thankfully, He hears us and answers. He hasn’t abandoned us. He hasn’t been sleeping. He is there, always ready to save us.

We don’t know God’s mind; we don’t know His plans. God asked Job, “Where were you when I...?” Job was not there in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth. We only know what He has revealed to us, and though Job was close to God, he can’t speak for Him. God’s ways are truly higher than our ways, His thoughts higher than ours. We can only walk in faith, trusting that God is in control.

That’s what Jesus wanted from the disciples that night on the sea. He wanted them to trust God, even when God seemed to be missing. God does not call us to do anything He hasn’t equipped us to do. Jesus suggested that they cross the lake, perhaps even knowing that the storm would come. He knew they were capable of handling whatever would come if they would only trust in Him. Then He went to rest, leaving the work of taming the sea to those qualified to do it.

We, too, cry out in our pain and suffering, but Jesus answers with the question, “Why are you so afraid? How is it that you have no faith?” Have we not heard the lessons of Jesus’ stories? Do we not know that God is in control? Even when the struggles come because we have sinned, He has promised forgiveness to those who let down their facades and repent; He has promised healing and reconciliation for those who live in truth and goodness.

At the end of our Gospel lesson the disciples asked, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The disciples never quite get it; they never quite see that Jesus is the LORD. He is Lord of the Sea, Lord of the storm, Lord over our fears. Jesus is more than just someone who can speak the parables of the kingdom of God; He is the Word that was wrapped up in all those stories. He is God.

We ask the “Where were you?” questions and remember all those important moments in our lives, but there is another more important question for Christians to ask: How do we respond to the difficulties of life? The answer will depend on what we believe about Jesus. “Who is this?” Is Jesus Lord? If the answer is “Yes,” then trust that He isn’t sleeping. He is with you, and He will carry you through all your storms.

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