Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sacrifice for Friendship ~ Series on Friendship

With Jesus' help, let us continually offer our sacrifice of praise to God by proclaiming the glory of His name. Hebrews 13:15 NLT


Frequently sacrifice is mentioned in the Old Testament, usually relating to offerings at the Temple for atonement and thanksgiving. As Jews around the world soon prepare to celebrate Yom Kippur (September 29-30, 2017), the most holy of the Jewish holy days, they fast and pray while reflecting upon past sins and seeking forgiveness. Celebrating this Day of Atonement reminds them of God's faithful provision and redemption for His chosen people. 

For Christians, we understand this OT teaching to foreshadow Christ, the Messiah, who becomes our sacrifice, our atonement for sin. Through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus - God's Perfect Lamb - God's greatest offering - we can be spiritually reconciled to God; God redeems us through the sacrifice of Christ and invites us into a personal relationship with Christ.

Scripture uses the Greek word thysia which relates to "the offering of a sacrifice" such as in the Jewish Temple, but it extends to "other kinds of Christian offerings, such as a 'sacrifice of praise'".(1) This kind of sacrifice is offered with attitudes of thanksgiving and gratitude, through acts of kindness and service; it is a reflection of the heart's generosity in relationship to God. Sacrifice of praise defines the depth of our friendship with the Lord. 

Just as the animals sacrificed on the Day of Atonement in the OT were to be burned outside the camp, so Jesus had to be crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem. We too are called to step outside, to live above the world's standards. Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. . .So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. [2 Peter 1:3-7 The Message] Our daily response to this Holy Friendship should be to proclaim God's Divine Love with sacrifices of praise. ~ dho

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Faithful Friendship - Series on Friendship

"No one has greater love [no one shows stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends." John 15:13 AMP


Among the ancient Greeks, according to Biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson, "friendship was among the most discussed, analyzed, and highly esteemed relationships." In many Greco-Roman stories, dying for the sake of friendship speaks to strong moral character, heroic but rare. Jesus tells His circle of friends how much He loves them and with the cross, proves that amazing love. Even in suffering, Jesus remains faithful.

Examples of God's faithfulness can be seen throughout the Bible. In 2 Timothy 2:13 Scripture reminds that even in our unfaithfulness, God is faithful. When Jesus says, "but I have called you friends," He is sharing more than heartfelt emotions. Jesus reveals His relationship with God the Father and shares this deep intimacy with His chosen friends. This intimate friendship between God and a few fishermen in Galilee over 2,000 years ago remains the model for Christians today. A rare, faithful Friend, Jesus demonstrates the greatest love, the strongest affection for every person with His willingness to endure the cross. This holy gift of faithful friendship is designed to be shared with others. ~ dho

Thursday, September 07, 2017

An Unlikely Friendship ~ Series on Friendship

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double minded. James 4:8 NASB 





In the book entitled Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer Holland, writer for National Geographic magazine, there are nearly 50 stories of animals who become unlikely friends. From an African elephant and a sheep to the owlet and a greyhound, accounts of varied animal species demonstrating unexpected compassion and friendship spill across the pages, not to mention beautiful photography. One story included of a baby hippo and a 130 year old tortoise made the rounds on Facebook a few years ago! They actually have their own book, Owen and Mzee, A True Story of a Remarkable Friendship. In her observations, Barbara King, animal behaviorist, describes Owen's and Mzee's mutual communication as sophisticated, "It's a dynamic dance between two species with no present program on how to deal with each other. And it can't just be instinct, because one was shaping its behavior to the other."

That a Holy God would choose to have a relationship with me, a broken sinner, simply boggles my imagination. This Amazing Grace pours over the dark and ugly parts of my nature making me a new creation in Him. Christ wraps me in a robe of righteousness inviting me to sit at His Table. Jesus says, "As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Remain in My love." Responding, I confess my inability to be good or to love apart from Christ. A spiritual dance begins between ancient holiness and growing faith. My heart desires to be more like Christ; His love teaching me to love completely, His grace influencing me to live abundantly. The Savior and a sinner ~ this is truly an unlikely friendshipone shaping its behavior to the other. dho

My heart desires to be more like Christ; His love teaching me to love completely, His grace influencing me to live abundantly. ~Donna Oswalt

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Perfect Friendship Revealed ~ Series on Friendship

"...I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." John 15:15b ESV 

In the upper room, the disciples sit in the presence of Jesus, holy and good; at the same time, they experience an extraordinary intimacy. Despite the awkwardness, the disciples allow Jesus to wash their feet, His life-lesson of a servant's heart. Not truly understanding the divine holiness of Jesus, these disciples only glimpse Perfection Unlimited.

From the beginning, humanity, created in God's image, chooses knowledge over faith, evil over good, and experiences the consequences of disobedience and darkness over the blessings of obedience and light. Today people still find themselves standing outside the Garden looking at the guarded gates in desperation. Choosing to do good for it's rewards competes with avoiding evil for fear of punishment. Separated from God, imperfection creates boundaries, yet choice remains.

Gregory of Nyssa, a 4th century Greek philosopher, is one of the first theologians to promote the belief that God is infinite and beyond the comprehension of mankind. His writings, which are deeply rooted in Scripture, suggest we are on a constant and continuous pilgrimage toward God. Gregory explains the "virtuous way of life" we are seeking comes in being "known by God" and being "His friend". God alone is True Perfection, limitless in power and infinite in goodness. To become friends with God should be the "only thing worthy of honor and desire." Unity with God brings spiritual reconciliation which transcends boundaries. Richard Foster, a 21st century theologian, offers, "To our astonishment we find that we are walking with God, His thoughts becoming our thoughts, His desires becoming our desires."

The world around us seems limitless, but it is restricted by many boundaries. In this world, our limitations are evidenced by time, resources, geography, education and social status. We are constrained by imperfections that produce fear, hate, poverty and loneliness. The only boundary-buster is True Perfection - Christ with infinite grace and limitless love. Only in Christ can one experience Perfect Friendship - holy and divine, heart transforming, unity building, eternal friendship. Only through Christ, are fallen, flawed and finite people able to love other imperfect people with grace and healing, both now and infinitely! ~dho


Only in Christ can one experience Perfect Friendship - holy and divine, heart transforming, unity building, eternal friendship. Donna Oswalt

Only through Christ, are fallen, flawed and finite people able to love other imperfect people with grace and healing, both now and infinitely! Donna Oswalt

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Pray For Your Friends - Part 2 ~ Series on Friendship

Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Philippians 2:3-4 The Message




Scripture supports praying for one another, praying to give encouragement, to love each other, to admit sins, to bring comfort. [some examples: Job 42:8, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12Proverbs 27:17Ephesians 6:18Philippians 1:9-12James 5:16Do your own search of prayer.] God calls Believers to offer inspiration and compassion to others within the community of faith. For all the unique differences that every individual celebrates, our commonality in Christ is greater. In praying for His friends, Jesus teaches all His followers empathy and love that matures in a growing, personal relationship with God.

True prayer is intimate and relational; it must be Christ-focused not self-focused. Being deep-spirited friends requires putting others ahead of ourselves, requires a self-less and obedient heart. Keith Miller writes, Prayer no longer seems like an activity to me; it has become the continuing language of the relationship I believe God designed to fulfill a human life. Within prayer, this continuing language of the relationship  choreographs an intricate dance from the random rhythms that the day brings. Prayer engages the soul; it is no longer simply something we do. By blending holy mystery with human experience, our relationship with God cultivates a more meaningful life. In praying for our friends with genuine humility instead of partisan obligation, we exchange the world's empty glory with authentic living for God's Glory! Lord, I long to be a deep-spirited friend that loves others for Your Glory! ~dho


Prayer engages the soul; it is no longer simply something we do. Donna Oswalt

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Pray For Your Friends - Part 1 ~Series on Friendship

[Jesus said] "I'm praying not only for [the disciples] but also for those who will believe in Me because of them and their witness about Me. The goal is for all of them to become one  heart and mind - Just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, so that they might be one heart and mind with Us. Then the world might believe that You, in fact, send Me." John 17:20 The Message 


Jesus teaches many lessons on prayer, but the glimpses into His personal prayer times speak the most powerful testimonies. Jesus would often pray alone. Perhaps He was seeking guidance and wisdom or simply sitting at His Father's feet talking about the day. Even on the cross Jesus prays, asking forgiveness for His persecutors. Hours before His arrest, Jesus prays for the disciples. Found in John 17 and known as the High-priestly prayer, Jesus offers intercessory prayer for His followers, first praying for the disciples, then for all Believers to come. Completely relational, this prayer reveals the unifying layers of God's plan: the Son and the Father, the Son and the Believer, Believers to each other, and witnesses to the world. Unity in love giving glory to God evidences each of these relationships.

Marking the end of Jesus' earthly ministry, this holy prayer begins His role as Infinite Intercessor for us. Hebrews 7:25 affirms that Jesus always lives to make intercession for those who come to God through Him. The privilege of prayer emerges as a divine invitation and evolves into a mutual dialogue with God. Just as Jesus reveals His unique relationship with the Father, every Believer can step into the Holy of Holies because of Jesus. As I travel back to that night over 2,000 years ago, I hear Jesus pray for me. I hear Jesus pray for you. Still today, Christ brings our petitions to the King. Holy Spirit, kindle my heart with Christ's love for God's Glory! ~ dho

The privilege of prayer emerges as a divine invitation and evolves into a mutual dialogue with God. ~ Donna Oswalt

next week Part 2 of Pray For Your Friends

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Divine Unity ~ Series on Friendship

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  2 Corinthians 13:14 ESV



The early church gave priority to fellowship (Acts 2:42) along with teaching and prayer. Fellowship within a community of Believers exemplifies sharing life together within a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The Message uses "intimate friendship" in reference to fellowship. This common unity strengthens and encourages discipleship; this Divine fellowship binds disciples to Christ and to each other. Being in partnership with Christ, needs and resources merge with common purpose.

Paul uses the Greek word koinonia in his letters multiple times, defining this Divine Unity as fellowship, sharing, and partnership combined with offering encouragement, compassion, and mutual respect in the name of Jesus. In studying this Scripture, Paul's benediction with references to all persons of the Trinity creates a complete picture of Perfect love and peace. The grace that Christ gives originates from the Father's love, and the Holy Spirit dwells within each Believer. Individual but inseparable, Divine Unity embodies our spirits, embraces our lives, and empowers our deeds. This evolving holy and intimate friendship restores and refines our mutual relationships with each other and the Lord. ~ dho


Being in partnership with Christ, needs and resources merge with common purpose. Donna Oswalt

Individual but inseparable, Divine Unity embodies our spirits, embraces our lives, and empowers our deeds. Donna Oswalt

This evolving holy and intimate friendship restores and refines our mutual relationships with each other and the Lord. Donna Oswalt

Thursday, August 03, 2017

For Friendship's Sake ~ Series on Friendship

Then David said, "Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" . . . "Is there not yet anyone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?" 2 Samuel 9

One of the most familiar stories of friendship in the Bible describes the enduring bond between David and Jonathan. Upon meeting they recognize an immediate soul-connection, for their friendship finds its foundations in commitment to God. Nothing destroys this friendship, not family drama, not political implications, not territorial battles. These many testings strengthen this God-chosen friendship. A promise of friendship before God endures difficulties.

A lesser known event happens many years later, after King Saul and his son Jonathan die in battle and David, the Lord's anointed one, becomes King of Israel. David remembers his vow of friendship with Jonathan, "The two of us have vowed friendship in GOD's name, saying, 'GOD will be the bond between me and you, and between my children and your children forever!' " For friendship's sake, in honor of Jonathan, David seeks to find anyone left in this family and desires to show God's kindness to them. Mephibosheth [meh-fib-o-sheth], Jonathan's son, cripple in both feet, is found and brought to King David. Calming Mephibosheth's worries, David tells him, "I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly." From living as an exile as the defeated enemy to becoming like family at the King's table, Mephibosheth's abundant blessings find their roots in faithfulness to a promise! 

God invites everyone to come and sit at His Table regularly, especially those of us who feel unworthy. Communion with God is more than reading the Bible with a cup of coffee, more than bread and wine. This intensely intimate relationship requires me to share heart, mind, and soul in the presence of God. At His Table, all my starvings find nourishment. The abundant blessings that flow over me find their roots in God's faithfulness, in God's promise of redemption, in grace through Jesus, the Promised Messiah. God's Promise is an everlasting covenant of friendship. For Friendship's sake, in honor of Jesus, God says, Come and eat at My table regularly. ~ dho


From living as an exile as the defeated enemy to becoming like family at the King's table, Mephibosheth's abundant blessings find their roots in faithfulness to a promise! Donna Oswalt

 At His Table, all my starvings find nourishment. Donna Oswalt

For Friendship's sake, in honor of Jesus, God says, "Come and eat at My table regularly." Donna Oswalt