Let God

Psalm 127:1 (ESV)
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

Who built your house?

We are builders. We build structures, tangibles, and/or new lives for ourselves and others. We can do it without God’s help. It’s done every day and its okay. In fact, it is a blessing if you have found work that you enjoy. In contrast, many of us work jobs that are a burden, yet we endure. Physical and mental toil are elements of our broken world. It has been written, doing God’s will is nourishment. Work suited to our gifts and personalities is food for our soul. The psalmist warned that unless the Lord builds the house, unless the Lord has inspired the labor, the worker eats the “bread of anxious toils.” In other words, trying to go it alone leads to a life filled with worry. A name that I have turned to often, the great preacher Charles H. Spurgeon, called one of his publications, The Sword and the Trowel, because he saw his ministry as labor, building believers and the church while fighting sin and false doctrine.  Some of us this evening will go to bed wishing we had worked better and harder, accomplished more and had fewer interruptions. Consider this! Go to bed after committing the day’s work to the Lord and letting it go.[1] That’s God’s gift. I’m reminded of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had such a clear conscience after a long day of ministry he was able to go to sleep in a boat on the sea in the middle of a storm. In a way, God built Jesus’ house and he slept well in it. Who built your house? Did you try to build it on your own? Even as we go to sleep, God can work for us in many ways.  

“God is always at work around you.” Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God

[1] Inspired by a reading of Warren Wiersbe’s, Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) OT – Psalm 127

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Skin For Skin


Job 2:4 (ESV)
Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life.

Does God turn us over to Satan to test us?

In a rare conversation between Satan and God, there comes a deal. In the midst of the conversation Satan exclaims, “Skin for skin!” Biblical scholars recognize this phrase to originate in a bartering system familiar to the ancient readers. It is understood to arise in the trading animal skins. In present day vernacular, it may be like me saying, “You’ve got a deal!” Satan and God were trading time for power. Satan got time to test Job. God got Satan to limit his power over Job, “Behold, he is in your hand, only spare his life.” In the end, God knew he would retain Job’s devotion. Satan was hoping to prove God to be wrong. It is a wonderful story from our Old Testament. Of course, God is right and Job remains devoted to God. Since the first reading, readers have wondered if God allows Satan to test each of us. There are days when it sure feels that way. Despite our experience, there is no evidence in the Bible that God gives Satan such reign over us. The bad news is that we give Satan such access, over and over again. The good news is that “with the temptation [God] will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”[1] One writer illustrated this with the story of a man being tempted in a bar while turning his back to the bright red sign over the door reading, “EXIT.” Does God turn us over to Satan to test us? No, but we do a fine job of it all on our own. Jesus came to save the world, not test it.

“Temptation is not a sin but playing with temptation invites sin.” Fulton J. Sheen, 1895-1979, American Catholic bishop


Stephen L. Hodges © 2021

[1] 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Beyond Promises

2 Corinthians 8:11 (ESV)

So now finish doing [this work] as well

so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by

your completing it out of what you have.

Do you give willingly?

“There is a great difference between promise and performance.”[1] The difference between the two is straightforward. Just because I promise does not guarantee my appropriate performance will follow. For many examples, look into US politics. We’ve been time and time again witness to politicians whose promises did not match their performance. Turning to today’s passage, we are aware of another setting where the promise was not followed by adequate performance, the church in Corinth. The Corinthians had promised Titus, an associate of Apostle Paul, they would share in a special collection for the poor Christians of Judea. At the time of the writing of 2 Corinthians they had not kept their promise. Paul had confidence that with a little coaxing they would follow through, “now finish doing it.” I’ve got a good feeling we Christians throughout the history of the church have made promises God may still be waiting for us to follow through. We may also have made promises to each other with little performance to show for it. The good news is that there can still be time. The even better news is that God seems to never expect more than a performance to match “what you have.” In the excitement of the moment we may have over promised a time or two … or three. How about the ever-present keyboard setting in First Church, Anywhere, USA, that has yet to be paid off by pledges, made especially painful in that there is no longer anyone to regularly play it? I have seen the source of such empty pledges: guilt giving. It has been written, “Guilty feelings make it difficult to think straight.” Guilt can make us promise when we would have been better off waiting. Paul’s suggestion to the Corinthians, do not exceed “your readiness in desiring it.” In other words, give willingly. Prayerfully move beyond promises, while being aware of your willingness, completing your realistic promises out of “what you have.”  

“If you can’t do something willingly and joyfully, then don’t do it.” Peter O’Toole, British actor


Stephen L. Hodges © 2021

[1] Wiersbee, Warren, Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unity over Agreement

James 2:1 (ESV)
My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

Are you impartial?

James set a high expectation, Christians are to be impartial. If we just look at the variety of Christian denominations we can see evidence of our impartiality. There is an old poem noting our divisions, “You go to your church, and I’ll go to mine, but let’s walk along together.”[1] It’s a sweet, romantic sentiment, but it begs two questions: If the two live so close together to share a walk, and enjoy each other’s company, why are they going to different churches? Can they not agree on their doctrine? Just because we have choices for Christian churches does not diminish James forceful command, “Show no partiality.” I recent listened as a leader of my denomination lamented, “We have reversed the lesson of Acts 2 and seek agreement over unity.” The point is that we would rather divide than remain in the same space with someone with whom we cannot agree. We see it every day in U.S. politics, as if this makes it acceptable behavior. What is behind James point? “God shows no partiality.”[2] God loves, shows mercy, applies grace to all of us, to all creation, just as the sun shines on the evil and the good. Jesus taught, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” No one even picked up a stone; we are all sinful, with no right to judge one another. Are you impartial? Only you know. Our God is impartial; so, Christians are expected to be impartial. Let us place unity over agreement.  Let’s worship together, too.

“The sun and the moon shine on all without partiality.” Confucius

www.twominutestoshare.com Stephen L. Hodges © 2021

[1] “Your Church and Mine,” by Phillips H. Lord

[2] Romans 2:11 (ESV)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Spirit Life

Acts 10:44 (ESV)
“While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.”

Has the Holy Spirit fallen upon you?

Some have called the event referenced in today’s verse, “The Gentile Pentecost.” This is not to be confused with the original Pentecost recorded in Acts 2. The Gentile Pentecost comes after Acts 2’s miraculous event, in which “divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them,” and is called this because “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.” In the recording of Act 2, the author makes sure to describe the gathering as “Jews and proselytes.” By Acts 10 the Holy Spirit is given to “all,” or everybody else, or as we have come to be called, Gentiles. Now I’ll emphasize the giving aspect of the event. The Holy Spirit is a gift. It is a gift we did nothing to earn it, to deserve it, to expect it. We cannot install the Holy Spirit, but we can put ourselves in the best attitude to receive the Spirit: engage with the Bible. It is fascinating to me that the scriptural text can bring about our awareness of the one and only Holy Spirit among us, within us. Taking note of the stark contrast between the black ink and the Holy Spirit, both are strongly connected. The Scripture leads us to the Spirit life.

“The gift of the Spirit is the most personal act of the Godhead. It is the gift of Himself to us.” Andrew Murray, from Experiencing the Holy Spirit

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One Day at a Time

John 12:27 (ESV)
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

Is your soul troubled?

Jesus had emotions. Jesus’ soul was troubled as he made his way to the cross. Jesus was showing his followers the impact of subjecting himself to the will of God. Jesus could just as well have said he was “stirred” or “agitated.” It works for me. I find it assuring that Jesus was feeling that way because I can get that way, too. No, I’m not headed to the cross, I don’t think. Billy Graham said, “The Christian life is not a constant high.” I’m comforted because I’ve wondered if I was getting it wrong. Being a Christian, following Christ, during the pandemic can be a low. Add to that, leading a group of Christians in Bible Study, or prayer, or worship, and I can be agitated at the least thing. That said I hear Jesus say, “But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” Jesus was following the will of God, on the road less travelled. You too may be following the will of God. These days you may be troubled over restrictions, infections, diminished attendance, and the longing for this to be over. You may be stirred by the continuing isolation. Consider this: Jesus walked to the cross one step at a time, with one foot in front of the other. Is your soul troubled? Perhaps it is. Your Christian walk may have “brought you to this hour.” Here’s the good news: You are not alone. Let’s take this walk together with Christ one step at a time, one day at a time.

“Take one day at a time. Today, after all, is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”
― Billy Graham, Hope for the Troubled Heart: Finding God in the Midst of Pain

www.twominutestoshare.com Stephen L. Hodges © 2021

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Okay

Psalm 25:2 (ESV)
O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.

In whom do you trust?

The psalmist wrote these words of Psalm 25:2 encouraging the Israelites to trust God. The words were offered in hope to get God’s people to change their ways. After years of rebellion against God the Israelites were being offered a fresh start, a new life. With this in mind, I recently took note of a news reporter’s closing comment after rehashing the COVID-19 pandemic. On a Pittsburgh TV station, KDKA’s Nicole Ford closed with, “It’s okay to get excited about the future.” Ford encouraged us to make vacation plans for the summer, and to begin to plan those gatherings in the fall. This is easier said than done, Nicole. These days, to get excited about the future takes trust.  Ford like others see the infection and death rates due to COVID-19 beginning to slow. In my county, there are sequential days when there are no COVID-19 related deaths. We seem to have passed the worst. This is where trust enters. If we trust the numbers and the medical reports, then we may start planning the parties. I know I’m looking forward to again socializing. In fact, I’d like to walk into a store without being expected to wear a mask and heed social distancing. I think we can relate to the ancient Israelites, a people weary of being surrounded by their enemies. The psalmist was encouraging his people, Trust God. After the pandemic, after the masks are thrown away, after the directional decals are removed from the floors of our grocery and department stores, after the “No Mask; No Enter” labels are scraped from entry doors of our favorite restaurants, we still must trust. I feel the pandemic has changed us and made us doubters. We have become doubtful of scientist, doctors, and leaders. The doubts are permeating our entire being. More difficult than trusting the numbers and the masks to see us through, we are called to trust in God. In whom do you trust?  It has been said, “Sometimes, we don’t have to understand what God is doing … we just have to trust God.” With the closing words of the psalmist, “Redeem us out of all our troubles.” It’s okay to trust God.

“To trust God in the light is nothing, but trust him in the dark – that is faith.” Charles H. Spurgeon

www.twominutestoshare.com Stephen L. Hodges © 2021

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Malachi 4:2 (ESV)
“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”

What is your destiny?

“Surely the day is coming,” wrote the Prophet Malachi. It was time for the Judeans to return to Jerusalem. The First Temple had been destroyed, ransacked and burned. When the Judeans returned they did not know what they may find. Not all returned. But for those who returned to Jerusalem there was much work to be done. Despite that destiny, Malachi described the response to the people returning for the tasks, “You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” Such imagery reminds me of a meme I saw on the Internet of a beagle running across a grassy field with mouth agape and ears folded back as the excited canine leaped about with abandon, and the caption read, “Live like someone left the gate open.” I believe that is our privilege. I see the ancient Judeans returning to Jerusalem with a task at hand while filled with the excitement of again worshipping our God on that special place, that hill, the Second Temple, on the Temple Mount. This year I believe many churches will return to in-person worship. Mine will return on February 14, 2021. The community of Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church has the opportunity to return to our unique sanctuary on our mount, our “Pleasant Hill.” Thankfully, our MPPC “temple” is still standing and well cared for by a small group of dedicated people. The personal question remains for each of us, wherever we may worship: What is your destiny? Destiny lies ahead for those who leave and those who return. The diminished group of Judeans climbing that hill long ago accepted their destiny to bring back to life their Temple. Our diminished groups of worshippers will climb our own hills, both literally and figuratively.  What is your destiny? Will you return or move on? Surely the day is coming. Destiny lies ahead for you.  

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” William Shakespeare

“You have a destiny, one that only you can complete.” Rick Warren

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

No Proof Is Necessary

John 1:50 (ESV) 
50Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”

Why do you believe?

Many people in the United States have recently heard reference to “QAnon.” Relatively few know much about it. I’m going to take the liberty to generalize about QAnon to make a point. “QAnon” appears to stand for the original anonymous writer(s) with Q Level security clearance. QAnon is associated with a theory that there are despicable people in this country. QAnon theory then expects there is a person in this country charged to rid this country of these despicable people. Adherents to this theory believe they know this person and will go to great lengths to follow this person, respond to this person, even giving up their personal freedom for this person.  They believe in this person.  Now, do not confuse messiah with vindicator. The adherents to QAnon are not looking for a messiah, because they see themselves as the noble ones. They are looking for a vindicator, someone with the power and authority to defend their principles. I’ve taken your time to explain since I’m working to answer the question: Why do you believe? The American Psychological Association has written, humans are “predisposed to believe.”[1] Psychologists suggest 85% of all humans are predisposed to believe in something. I understand this to reflect our common need to give order to the chaos we experience. Therefore, our beliefs seem to be based on our experiences. The adherents to QAnon have had experiences that lead them to believe in a vindicator. I, on the other hand, need no vindicator, because my experiences have led me to believe in a messiah, the Son of God. I have seen the life-changing impact of Christ in my life; therefore, I put all my faith into one entity: God. I need not a vindicator; I have a messiah. Why? By the teaching of my messiah, Jesus Christ, these are not the last experiences of my life. Jesus celebrated the people who believe in him without experience. Christians are followers for whom no proof is necessary.   

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary.  For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.”  Anon

[1] A reason to believe (apa.org)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Humbling Thought

Mark 1:7 (ESV)
And [John the Baptist] preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”

Could you be so humble?

The peaceful transition of power takes humility. John the Baptist had his fervent disciples. John had authority and success. John was the prophet’s prophet. Prophets of the Old Testament predicted the coming of this prophesying messenger to “proclaim the coming of the Lord.” Imagine John’s feeling of significance. John was the baptizer, ushering people to repent and be cleansed of their sin. God had bestowed upon John this much-needed work of change. That said John knew well his life plan. John was to prepare the way of the Lord and then humbly step aside. This was a divinely arranged transfer of power. Not all transfers of power go well. This week we have witnessed an ugly transition of power when President Trump refused to “prepare the way” for President-elect Biden, inciting his disciples and followers to overturn the election. On January 6, what ensued was the overtaking and desecration of the U.S. Capitol by “Trumpist” as Congress met within the building to ceremonially receive the outcome of the vote by the Electoral College, proclaiming Joe Biden our president-elect. By no means do I see Biden as a “messiah.” I do see one man’s inability to take the decision of the people and humbly prepare the way for his successor. Imagine if John the Baptist had done the same and challenged Jesus’ ministry. Imagine if John had incited his followers to march to the Temple and undermine Jesus’ ministry. Much like this week, the good news is the outcome would not have changed. John the Baptist would still have been set aside as Jesus went to work for our salvation. John the Baptist is an exceptional example of the peaceful transition of power. If you were in his place, could you be so humble? To relinquish such authority may be a challenge. It is often missed that the authority we receive has been bestowed upon us by a higher authority. I truly believe our power and success is not ours to cling to; human power and success are fleeting.  As my brother and mentor told me upon my installation at my first church, “God is already preparing your replacement.” A humbling thought that began my ministry. A humbling thought for any leader. A humbling thought for President-elect Biden, too.

 “It gets quiet when you realize someone’s forgotten you and even quieter when you see you’ve been replaced.” Anonymous   

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment