Thursday, September 13, 2018

Every Blessing!

As summer ends, reflect back over our discoveries in Scripture that reassures us with the unlimited possbilities of God. So often, in the quiet joys and little victories we forget that God celebrates with us, creates the joys, and even makes a way for the victories. In the chaos of crisis and the hurriedness of hectic, God walks beside us. We are never alone when we put our faith in God. Take a few minutes to listen to this song "Counting Every Blessing"! - dho

click to listen

Thursday, September 06, 2018

In the Garden - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will. Mark 14:36

Despite dwelling in complete paradise and daily walking with the Creator, Adam and Eve not only encounter temptation but act on this. Disobedience breaks their relationship with God. They are banned from paradise to toil the land. The consequences of sin are born in the garden of Eden.

     I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses;  
     And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses...

On the night Jesus is arrested, He takes His disciples to pray. The deep loneliness reaches through the darkness as Jesus comes before His Father. Jesus recognizes the rebellion of humanity and the gravity of God’s judgement. God’s plan is for Jesus to follow a path of suffering, to take this “cup” of wrath, to endure alienation from God as the ransom for all sin. Perfect Love will submit to God’s will and usher in a renewed relationship with God - “sins forgiven, heaven secured, joy restored, peace.” Knowing the cost of humanity’s sin, Jesus’ willing, unselfish response to an incomparable choice fills the night. Grace is born in the garden of Gethsemane.

     And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own,
     And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.

We fall on our knees before our Father desperate for His healing intervention, His mending touch. With tears and sorrow and loneliness we cry out in our suffering demanding answers. Other times, with joy and hope we shout praises to God for miracles we could only imagine, resolutions greater than our requests, sighs of wonder rise with prayers of celebration. In all these moments we can feel the embrace of God, a God who chooses love and forgiveness and peace. We find Jesus in the garden of a God who can do all things! -dho

We do not trust him because of what we can prove from our circumstances, but from what is revealed about his character at the cross. There we learn that even when circumstances are awful and inexplicable, God will ultimately bring about the good he intends. - Gospel Transformation Notes

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Red-Letter Promise - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

 But Jesus looked at them and said, With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:16-26 

Found in three of the gospels, the “Story of the Rich Young Ruler” reminds us that complete dependence on God opens our hearts to eternal life. The young ruler owns much property, follows the holy commandments, but realizing there is more, asks what he must do to “obtain eternal life”. Jesus tells him that he must sell all his possessions and give them to the poor, then “Come, follow Me”. The young ruler went away sad for he was very wealthy. 

Jesus teaches the disciples that greed can be a “hindrance to embracing the gospel”. False security of wealth can create self reliance, while dependence on God grows faith. At this time, religious culture believes that wealth and success implies God’s favor. In this context, the disciples wonder if the wealthy could not have eternal life, then who? 

A self-reliant person shuns dependency. An intellectual ridicules childlike faith. But salvation is impossible to achieve on our own; it requires a humble cry to God for help. What is impossible for us is possible with God—on His terms. -Blackaby
Truthfully, God does not favor any one person or group of people; all individuals stand equal before Him. Jesus’ words make it clear that salvation is impossible with people - not with good deeds or by following the rules or being a kind person. Only by being willing to give up everything, to lay down one’s own agenda, to give priority to God’s plan will we find ourselves spiritually dependent upon God. Grace is possible only though Christ, the Red-Letter Promise of a God who can do all things! - dho

**Matthew 19:16-26, Mark 10:21-26, Luke 18:24-30. (The Rich Young Ruler)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Beyond My Doubt - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Mark 9:23 NLT

In this scene a father, desperate to find healing for his son, approaches Jesus begging, “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” Jesus almost sounds incredulous in His reply ‘If I can’ then confidently continues, “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Believes? Believes what?

In defining the Greek word believes, faith or trust is understood. Faith in what? Believing faith must be rooted in Christ and the knowledge of an ever-faithful God. We must believe God can do anything, believe He has the power or ability to accomplish any task or influence any outcome. This faith requires a belief that we have all we need in God; any ability or talent or strength comes from God. We must believe that faith itself is a gift from God. 

In the interaction with Jesus, the father cries out, “I do believe and help me overcome my unbelief.” This father needs to believe Jesus can heal his son and wants to believe beyond any doubt. Like us, our definition of faith is sometimes in conflict with our desperate needs. Trusting that God is greater than our difficulties, that He knows our deepest grief or greatest longing, tests our truest beliefs, exposes our smallest doubts. 

This story reinforces God’s power over Satan’s battle for our souls. The struggle is real and never ending this side of heaven. Our knowing - our faith - must be more about who God is  and not about the outcomes. The same struggles with evil continue for us, and our greatest weapons are prayer and faith. Prayer is part of the healing process for us. Faith must believe the Lord will always win the battle because He can do all things. - dho

Thursday, August 16, 2018

How Can This Be? - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

For nothing will be impossible with God. Luke 1:37

Some 1,000 years after the time of David, Scriture takes us to Nazareth and introduces us to Mary. Recorded in the Gospel of Luke, it is possible that Mary herself tells Luke her own story, recalling the angel Gabriel's unexpected visit, the immaulcate conception, the journey to Bethlehem, the birth of the Messiah. Luke's writing reveals God's plan of Grace, divinely designed before time and miraculously conceived in Mary's virgin's womb. Once again, the words nothing will be impossible with God take us to place of immense possibility.

Gabriel delivers God's message to Mary, calling her favored one, describing how she will give birth to a son and name him Jesus. Gabriel says this child, "will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David." Beyond her understanding, Mary asks, "How can this be?" Mary's faithful response echoes throughtout the centuries to follow, "May it be done to me according to Your word." Warren Wiersbe writes, "Mary yielded herself to the Holy Spirit knowing full well that she would experience shame and misunderstanding."
God's purposes for us exceed our abilities and cannot be accomplished apart from Him. However, that is how God works. When He reveals His plans, He is also promising to fulfill them. Trust Him and remember, with God, nothing is impossible! - Blackaby 
We, too, stand in awe of a mighty God whose majesty and mystery confound our abilities to understand. To confess the "mystery of faith" requires a belief that goes beyond proof, requires a faith that cannot adequately explain this truth but lies at the core of Christianity. Christ, born of a virgin, is crucified and dies, but three days later He rises from the grave and returns to sit at the right hand of God. This remains God's never-ending promise of redemption for whomever believes. Like Mary, we wonder, "How can this be?" Perfect Love responds, "Nothing will be impossible with God." Let me reply, "May it be done to me according to Your word! -dho

Thursday, August 09, 2018

God of All My Days - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

In my worry, God You are my stillness
In my searching, God You are my answers
In my blindness, God You are my vision
In my bondage, God You are my freedom
In my weakness, God You are my power

...You're the God of all my days  
- Casting Crowns

Please take a moment to listen to this song that gives voice to the soul's great desires - to find unconditional love, to find joy in difficulty, to find comfort in grief, to find strength in weakness, to find hope in redemption, to find this God who can do all things! - dho

Thursday, August 02, 2018

God’s Purpose - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’. Isaiah 46:9-10

In Isaiah 46-48, we read about the coming fall of Babylon and find exiled Israel worshiping pagan gods. Warren Wiersbe writes, “Isaiah exposes the folly of idols and exalts the greateness of Jehovah.” Isaiah calls for Israel to remember their past, to remember God’s fulfillment of prophecies, miracles of deliverance, and the blessings of provision. To see God’s revelation of His divine power and plan helps the people understand the past and hope for the future.

Yahweh, the one, true and living God, stands in contrast to multiple, non-living idols made by man. These pagan gods crafted of stone or wood, silver or gold cannot control destiny or give comfort as they are “merely a result of human creativity.” The idols and scorchers and astrologers that Israel worships cannot help them. Isaiah reminds them of the trustworthiness of the Lord.

Superior in all ways to the world’s idols, God with His divine power reaches out to each of us. From Genesis to Revelation God reveals His story, His plan for His people, and through the centuries echoes refrain, “there is no one like Me.” Any person can receive this gift of righteousness through faith in Christ whose abundant grace overflows. Unexpected and unmatched, Christ is God’s indescribable gift to us. Endless hallelujahs to my God who can do all things, especially the things I find impossible to accomplish or even imagine. -dho

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Nothing Too Extraordinary - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17

Jeremiah’s prayer, Jeremiah 32:16-25, expresses a desire for the assurance of God’s will while acknowledging His righteousness. For Jerusalem, this is a time of despair and doubt, a time of war and weariness; yet, the people’s rebellion toward God persists. Jeremiah focuses on God’s majesty and mystery as Creator, Judge, and Redeemer. Despite rebellion, God continues to embrace His people promising, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

About a year before the fall of Jerusalem, God tells the prophet Jeremiah to “buy a field” even though the land will soon be completely seized by the Babylonians. As God allows the city of Jerusalem to be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylonia, the people continue their idolatry, giving offerings and worshiping false gods. Through fire and disease, famine and poverty, the buying of the field in this land becomes an “expression of confidence of a loving God’s promise of redemption.”

We are helpless to save ourselves. Regardless of a sometimes desperate desire to understand, we will not always have answers to our questions or doubts. Faith requires keeping our trust in the sovereignty of God, in the certainty of His everlasting love for us. After Jeremiah prays, God reassures with His rhetorical reply, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything to difficult for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27) We, also, find our Blessed Assurance in this God who finds nothing too extraordinary! -dho

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Too Great and Too Marvelous - God Who Can Do All Things Summer Series

Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.

 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.
 O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore.
     Psalm 131 - ESV

This psalm of David, part of the Songs of Ascents, describes a “calm and quieted soul” of one who trusts in God. The Songs of Ascents, Psalms 120-134, are pilgrim songs for those who travelled up to Jerusalem to worship for the required Jewish feasts. The message of this short song is to find contentment and hope in God while not being overly concerned with trying to understand all the ways of God who can do all things.

David voices the same conclusion that Job and Abraham discover about God, “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too wonderful for me.” God’s plan and provision reveal extraordinary and marvelous opportunities and offerings that we often cannot understand. With humility and childlike trust, we must allow our “measured and modest” souls to find immutable hope in the majesty and mystery of God. Contentment is simply to find satisfaction in the presence of the Lord. -dho

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Nothing Is Too Marvelous - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Genesis 18:13-14

Scripture’s narrative describes Abraham welcoming three heavenly visitors, preparing a generous meal, and learning that he and Sarah will have a son. During the meal, Sarah, inside the tent, hears the prophecy. As both she and Abraham are very old and past childbearing years, Sarah laughs “to herself” at the idea of such. The LORD replies, “Is there anything to hard for the LORD?. A more correct translation would be, “is there anything too marvelous or extraordinary for the Lord?

Sarah’s disbelief, often like ours, seems to doubt the extravagance of God’s promises. The Gospel Transformation Bible Notes says it this way: “God’s purposes of grace are not held captive by human sin or adverse circumstances. He is the God who works out his purposes through weak and ordinary human beings such as Abraham and Sarah. It is God’s grace, not human merit, that determines the course, and the blessing, of our lives.”

At 100 years and 90 years old respectively, we know that Abraham and Sarah do welcome a son they name Isaac, which means ‘laughter’ - just as the LORD had promised. (Genesis 21:6-7)  Sarah declares her joy in this unimaginable gift, “God has made laughter for me.” This is the beginning of the lineage of Jesus, God’s covenant with Abraham to make his descendants into a great nation, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Generation after generation, God weaves His chosen people who will birth grace. Nothing is too hard for God who can do all things. - dho

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Freedom of 'We the People' - God Who Can Do All Things Summer Series

Today is the 4th of July, the day America celebrates independence, remembers the signing of the  Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, when "the Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America". For citizens of America, this was the beginning, the foundation of freedom. We don't celebrate the the Constitution, signed September 17, 1787, the written footprint of freedom and liberty that empowered and outlined the responsibilities of "We the people". Those beginnings and struggles to define freedom have been followed by decades of great efforts and epic failures to live out this kind of freedom. America is not about a particular place or group of people, rather America is "a radical and unprecedented idea, based upon liberty and freedom for all". (Eric Metaxas, If You Can Keep It)

Recently, I read Eric Metaxas’ book If You Can Keep It, The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty. The founders of America's document of freedom, The Constitution, believed that "the idea of total religious freedom was paramount." Metaxas writes about freedom and liberty, government and self-government, about virtue and love of country all being part of what formed America's ideals of freedom and what "we the people" must value. He speaks to the fragility of freedom and the uniqueness of America's government. Metaxas describes the heart of America as "the idea of living for others - of showing them a new way of living."

America, with its unique government and struggles to live its principles of liberty, continues to learn and evolve. It is not perfect, nor are its citizens; however, all citizens of America are included in the "we", each shares the burdens and enjoys the goodness. I treasure the freedom to worship as I choose, the freedom of speech to share my thoughts, the freedom to dream and opportunity to achieve dreams, the freedom to respectfully disagree with some and still remain part of this country. Especially on a day that celebrates independence, with both humiltiy and sadness, I do remember that this freedom has not come without its many wounds, some physical others pyschological, losses that linger, pain that divides. 

I believe in a God who offers a "radical and unprecedented idea" of spiritual freedom. I believe in a God who loves and chooses to love everyone. I trust in a God who desires a relationship with a sinner like me. I believe in a God who can do all things!  -dho  

** written Wednesday this week for the 4th of July! Next week, returning to Thursday!