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About Bruce Hanson

I am a retired public school teacher of 52 years, and a Bible study teacher for nearly the same amount of time. A much wiser one than when I began. I love God's Word and all that it reveals about my Savior. And one last thing. I'm an assuredly silly guy (-B

Wonder Bread

by Bruce Hanson

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

B&W-Wonder Bread

Back in the 50’s, sitting in front of our tiny black and white television, there was a commercial that seemed to show up constantly:  “Wonder Bread builds strong bodies twelve ways.” Now they never told us what any of those twelve ways were, but the implication was that we truly couldn’t live without it. That claim was not especially accurate, but there IS a bread we can’t live without.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”  John 6:35

Living in a nation where I have always had bread to eat, I have never really thought of the bread in the Lord’s Prayer as that which I might consume. That cannot be said for many in the Middle East who are trying to survive on cattle feed. I pray that God’s daily bread could make its way to them. But this is the bread I am especially craving right now. 

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Matthew 4:1-4

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

And I am particularly taken by the use of the descriptor DAILY.  Jesus didn’t say weekly, monthly, or yearly bread. 

We are living in times that I truly believe to be unrivaled in history.  Literally days ago, a candidate in Slovakia lost an election to a candidate of Vladimir Putin after a fake recording was circulated that purported to be him claiming to have rigged the election, and horrors: that he was raising the price of beer. It was his voice, but it wasn’t him. He lost!!

We are beyond blessed to have this.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

This is our bread. The Word of God. It isn’t like that Wonder Bread that we wondered whether or not it was bread.  In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we are told  that our bread is God-breathed. It is our one trustworthy constant in a world of rampant uncertainty — The Word of God. Never Miss a Meal!!!

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Wonder Bread2024-02-17T18:09:34-07:00

Jesus Wins

by Bruce Hanson

“Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10


When we met to discuss our devotionals for this week, Pastor Aaron told us that in regards to the Kingdom in the passage above, more than truly anything else, he wanted to be a part of a kingdom where Jesus reigned supreme, dominating the landscape wherever anyone looked. The words above don’t say your kingdom, or my kingdom. They are about the manifestation of God’s Kingdom here on earth. And in that Kingdom, Jesus Wins!!

Now that will be awesome, but that isn’t actually going to be complete until there is a new heaven and a new earth, Revelation 21. There is a temporary fix though.

When I was a midgie, my neighborhood didn’t yet have a local library. We would go to the strip mall by our house, the Brentwood Shopping Center, and the Bookmobile would bring books to us. It was the highlight of my week. I wore out every single Nancy Drew book.

So back to our story. Gathered all over that hill where Jesus was delivering the Sermon on the Mount was a hodgepodge of needy people. For the most part,
they weren’t the Richie Riches of the world. It was people whose lives had not measured up to their dreams. They were desperate for a new kingdom: one that held promise; one that wasn’t based on possessions they would never have. Jesus offered the one thing they were all desperate for — hope!! Whatever their backgrounds, all needed hope, as do you and I.

Corporately, we won’t see God’s Kingdom here on earth until Revelation 20 becomes our reality. But for the time being, we can take Jesus’ Kingdom to our world, just like the librarian who drove the Bookmobile brought books to me. And I can tell you that those I meet will get more than they need of the Kingdom of Jesus if the kingdom I carry wherever I go looks like this:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

If I carry that to those around me, they will be blessed with a glimpse of the kingdom.  And guess what?

Jesus Wins!!!

Where’s My Library Card??

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Jesus Wins2024-02-10T12:01:46-07:00

Am I Just Talking to Myself?

by Bruce Hanson

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Matthew 6:5-8

When you find yourself in the position I am in, writing a devotional, and praying that it might be impactful for someone, your point of departure must always begin with serious contemplation. My assignment for this week was to address the purpose of prayer. That’s a big task!! And it led me here.

Dialogue?

Or Monologue?

My immediate response to the question above would be Dialogue. But far too often, I fear that not to be the case. It tends to be me delivering a soliloquy.
We all want to hear from God, but the truth is, I was not sure what that looks like. As I researched the concept, I discovered a book — not necessarily one I’m suggesting you read, but the book’s backstory piqued my interest.

Mark Virkler has written a book called Dialogue with God: Opening the Door to Two Way Prayer. It has been his life’s desire to hear the voice of God.
He memorized all the passages that reflected someone speaking audibly with God. He studied scripture endlessly. He attended and graduated from seminary.
He spent the largest part of his life trying unsuccessfully to hear God’s voice. It was always a monologue. And then this, (Mark’s words):

“The first key to hearing God’s voice, then, is learning what His voice spoken within sounds like. Rather than being an inner audible voice, I discovered that God’s voice in our hearts generally sounds like a flow of spontaneous thoughts. Yes, God graciously spoke to me in an audible voice once, but that is certainly not the norm. In fact, it is more likely an indication that I was too thick or too stubborn to get His message any other way! Like Paul on the road to Damascus, I had to be “hit upside the head” in order to hear what He had to say to me. The Lord will take drastic measures if necessary, but He would rather we learn to discern Him speaking as spontaneous thoughts from within our hearts.”

What I realized is this: When I speak with God, I need to enter the dialogue with the real expectation that I WILL hear from Him. Mostly, I don’t — is it a wrong mindset? Secondly, and more importantly, I need to give Him time to answer. This isn’t a task to be accomplished. It is a conversation with my Father. Give Him time. And if I do, I have a feeling I may just experience that spontaneous flowing of thoughts a lot more often. 

I pray the same for you!!

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Am I Just Talking to Myself?2024-02-03T18:23:15-07:00

Gone to the Dogs

by Bruce Hanson

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4

When I was a Tootsie Roll Midgie, 70 years ago, there was a commercial that always caught my eye. It was for the Cloverleaf Dog Track, north of Denver.
What captured my attention was the nature of the races. There was an automated rabbit that every single dog wanted to catch, and they raced like crazy to catch it. They never did, but they never stopped trying. 

In today’s passage, there is a subliminal message and I think it has nothing to do with going incognito.

Later in Matthew, Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6: “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” *

* See also, 1 Samuel 15:22.


While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick, but go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’
For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:10-13

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is concerned about the condition of our hearts, our motivation for all the things we do. If we do them to be seen, to enable regular back patting, it is SACRIFICE. And if that be our purpose, we will be like the dogs chasing that rabbit. We will never catch it. Is this what
God desires?

“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” Romans 15:2

That is MERCY. And that is Jesus’ desire for each one of us.

Ditch the cape and mask (-B

Be motivated by LOVE!!

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Gone to the Dogs2024-01-28T08:09:41-07:00

Take a Seat

by Bruce Hanson

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

 

I am a member of a group I wish I wasn’t qualified to be a part of, The OGC (Old Guys Club). That isn’t our official name but an appropriate one for the geezers like me who attend the Men’s Bible Study on Wednesday at church (ages 60-90+). When you are younger, one often pines for a vacation, an opportunity to rest and recharge. But when you are old like me, you have way more down time than is desirable — way too much!! Nonetheless, having extra time doesn’t equate with rest — much needed rest.

When I was a brand new Christian — half a century ago – I read a book by Watchman Nee called Sit, Walk, Stand. “Sit” is the place we start as Christians.  Sitting means trusting.  It mightily impacted me ever since.  In the passage above, Jesus offers us a rest that we all are desperate for. Trouble is, I think most of us only almost sit down. We are close, perched two inches above the seat. But the chair doesn’t actually work unless we allow it to support our weight. Not only that, but it wreaks havoc on our backs to almost sit. Ouch!!

As an oldie, I am unfortunately all too aware of how many times I have ALMOST trusted God. I thought and said the right things. But I didn’t TRULY trust Him.  I hadn’t rested in Him. I meant to, but I always stopped short — too many ‘Buts’ and ‘What Ifs’.

It makes me think fondly of my departed mother. She worked hard all week, so she was more than deserving of a day of rest. But come Sunday, she just couldn’t sit down — maybe for thirty seconds, but then she was right back up. If you look at the wonderful offer God makes above, there is no asterisk. There isn’t anything we must do to validate the offer. No resumé is required. — Just This!!

 

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him,
and he shall direct thy path. Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Take a Seat. God has the best cushions!!

 

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Take a Seat2024-01-18T09:38:05-07:00

Forward March

by Bruce Hanson

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:1-14

There is a verse in Romans that reads as follows:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Many moons ago, the writers of the Living Bible added the word FREE before GIFT. They did so for the very reason Paul was writing to Philippi. Those dogs he spoke of were the Judaizers. They wanted to add conditions to that free gift. Paul extols his accomplishments, which were many, and then says that as notable as they may have been, they were literally dog doo when compared to that God-given free gift.  “Dung” is the literal translation of the Greek word skubalon (garbage, refuse).

Our concern right now at South Fellowship is with our spiritual and emotional health.  It is something we cannot ignore if we are to be Jesus’ ambassadors.

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

We are sinners. The corollary to that truth is that if we are sinners, we are guaranteed to have sinned. Repeatedly!! The King of those Judaizers (Satan) wants us to carry those sins around with us everywhere we go. Backs broken. Spiritual lights dimmed.

God has given us a provision and it is one we must take full advantage of.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

The wonderful result of that is this:

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

Give those judaizing dogs a swift kick!! Satan wants us to stumble around with all our baggage. Wherever we go. That is not what God intends. Paul tells us to forget what is behind, and move forward as God has planned for us. There is assuredly a cost to our sinning, but leave the sins behind. If God can forget them, we certainly ought to do the same.

Put on those white robes and . . . . 

Forward March

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Forward March2024-01-14T22:59:31-07:00

You, Me, and the Guy Next Door

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

As we begin our trek through a new year, there is an understanding we must all carry with us, and it is found in the verse above. 

We Are His Handiwork

When I looked in the mirror this morning, I didn’t appear to be a very good model of God’s handiwork. I’m old: missing most of my teeth. I don’t hear well. Don’t see well. And I walk like I’m 150.  But God knew me before I knew myself, and He had most definite plans for me. If you looked on the bottom of my foot, you’d see a “Made in Heaven” sticker — despite all my shortcomings.

As I considered those plans God has for me, I was taken to the following passage in I Corinthians.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not —to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

God has plans for me and for you. He asks simply one thing from us. We need to be available. I won’t make assumptions.  God asks only that I open my heart to hear His instructions. Consider this fellow.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Then Ananias went.
Acts 9:10-17

And because Ananias went, we have the man Paul, who has impacted us all immeasurably. We never hear from Ananias again. But he was there when God needed him.

As we enter this new year, be attuned to God. He has plans! You are included.

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

You, Me, and the Guy Next Door2024-01-06T12:29:58-07:00

Advent 2023, December 28

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. This Advent season our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary. You will encounter texts from the Psalms, the Prophets, and the New Testament as well as formal prayers. Each text has been selected to build anticipation for the coming of Christ – the Light of the World – amid the dark, cold days of winter. Reflect on the first coming of Christ while yearning for his second coming.

Note. If you desire to read these passages in a different version of the Bible, this link will provide all the readings for week 4 in Bible Gateway where you may also choose other versions of these passages.)

Luke 1:26-38

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Source: Year B – Advent : Revised Common Lectionary


This is such a wonderful story!! There are many things that jump out at me, but I want to point out two:

The angel announces to Mary that NO WORD from God will EVER fail!! What an amazing promise! And it isn’t just pretty words. It is Truth!! Stand on it!! If God said it, it’s going to happen!

Secondly, we ought to do our very best to emulate Mary as she responds to the angel’s pronouncements. Mary is a teen, and not a grad of Jerusalem U. She has to be bewildered. The angel has told Mary something that in the scheme of things is outrageous. A virgin birth? Her response is the same one we all ought  to model:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Just Wow!! Just Wonderful!!

Advent 2023, December 282023-12-18T14:57:33-07:00

Advent 2023, December 27

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. This Advent season our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary. You will encounter texts from the Psalms, the Prophets, and the New Testament as well as formal prayers. Each text has been selected to build anticipation for the commmmmmmmmmLight of the World – amid the dark, cold days of winter. Reflect on the first coming of Christ while yearning for his second coming.

Note. If you desire to read these passages in a different version of the Bible, this link will provide all the readings for week 4 in Bible Gateway where you may also choose other versions of these passages.)

 

Romans 16:25-27

“Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith — to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

 

Source: Year B – Advent : Revised Common Lectionary

There are those words and actions that come at the end of things. I went to a high school basketball game tonight, and at the end of the fourth quarter, the horn sounded and the game was over. We won!! Hallelujah!! But if we are not careful, that word “Amen” can be just like the horn. At dinner, the Amen at the end of the prayer signals it is time to eat. At church, the Amen of the benediction can often be followed by families rushing to beat each other to a favorite restaurant for Sunday dinner. Too easily, the significance of the word Amen can be lost in the rush. Outside of the gospels themselves, I am not sure there is a more impactful book in the Bible than the Book of Romans. And how does it end? “Amen”. Which means “SO BE IT”!! As we move into a new calendar year, I will seek to make those wonderful truths of Romans evident in my life. How about you?

“So Be It“  (-B

Advent 2023, December 272023-12-18T14:41:24-07:00

Advent 2023, December 26

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. This Advent season our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary. You will encounter texts from the Psalms, the Prophets, and the New Testament as well as formal prayers. Each text has been selected to build anticipation for the coming of Christ – the Light of the World – amid the dark, cold days of winter. Reflect on the first coming of Christ while yearning for his second coming.

Note. If you desire to read these passages in a different version of the Bible, this link will provide all the readings for week 4 in Bible Gateway where you may also choose other versions of these passages.)

Luke 1:46-55

“And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” 

Source: Year B – Advent : Revised Common Lectionary

Unfathomable Joy

I could probably write 10,001 words about what is happening here and still have words left over. Let me leave it at this. Mary is a “newbie” mom, and a mom literally like no other. She travels to visit Elizabeth, and her mind is likely “all over everywhere”: Happiness. Fear. And a million others. Is this even real?

And then arriving at Elizabeth’s home, the baby John leaps in the womb, and Elizabeth explodes with joy at Mary and her baby’s presence. There are no more questions. This is real. The burden of uncertainty is lifted. Mary is filled with a joy beyond measure. The result is today’s passage, and Mary’s soliloquy. As we move beyond Christmas, claim that same joy for yourself.  Jesus IS real!!

Advent 2023, December 262023-12-18T14:35:22-07:00
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