Thursday, May 25, 2017

Servant of God

Easter gatherings with their celebrations are fast becoming memories as plans for Spring Break and summer vacations begin to fill the calendar. Before life fills our plates too full with other thoughts, I would like to spend the next several weeks sharing some of the insights I gleaned during these recent weeks of Lent.~dho



The spiritual discipline of service requires an "attitude of obedience". In A Year with God, Foster gives us the definition of servanthood. As I think back on these instructions, I must ask myself if I have become a better servant or gained a deeper understanding of service. What do my actions really show? What is my heart's intention?
Being a servant of God and of others [is] a way of living - a declaration of obedience, not an occasional volunteer activity. Richard Foster
As the season between the resurrection and Pentecost draws to a close, implementing the lessons learned becomes more critical. Without a demonstration of living more like Christ, our insights fall short. Colossians 3:23-24 tells us how to work, how to be obedient, how to honor Christ with our efforts. -dho
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. Colossians 3:23-24

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"O good and gracious King!"

Easter gatherings with their celebrations are fast becoming memories as plans for Spring Break and summer vacations begin to fill the calendar. Before life fills our plates too full with other thoughts, I would like to spend the next several weeks sharing some of the insights I gleaned during these recent weeks of Lent.~dho


During the Lenten season, there are many hymns that are traditionally sung. One that is often part of worship on Palm Sunday is "All Glory, Laud and Honor". A particular memory of this hymn happened on Palm Sunday in 1991 at Church of the Savior in Cleveland, Ohio. On this first Sunday we take our younger daughter to church, only 3 weeks old, we sing this hymn. The words stir my heart as I hold my newborn and think of the innocence of children singing "sweet hosannnas" as Jesus enters into Jerusalem. I am reminded again each time this hymn is sung. 

Take a moment to reflect upon the words of this hymn. Imagine the day, the joy, the celebrations. Imagine the day's events, conversations, and songs. Take a moment to once again offer praises and prayers to our Redeemer, our good and gracious King! - dho

"All glory, laud and honor
to You, Redeemer, King,
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.
You are the King of Israel
and David's royal Son,
now in the Lord's name coming,
the King and Blessed One.

The company of angels
is praising You on high; 
and we with all creation
in chorus make replay.
The people of the Hebrews
with palms before You went;
our praise and prayer and anthems 
before You we present. 

To You before Your passion
they sang their hymns of praise;
to You, now high exalted,
our melody we raise.
As You received their praises,
accept the prayers we bring,
for You delight in goodness,
O good and gracious King!"

** text originally written in Latin around 820 by Theodulph, bishop of Orleans. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Easter gatherings with their celebrations are fast becoming memories as plans for Spring Break and summer vacations begin to fill the calendar. Before life fills our plates too full with other thoughts, I would like to spend the next several weeks sharing some of the insights I gleaned during these recent weeks of Lent.~dho

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. Psalm77:11


During Lent and since, I have been a part of a women's Bible study at our chuch called Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg. Each week we are challenged to 'awake to the wonder of God'. Feinberg writes, "God desires to captivate us not just with His handiwork but with Himself - displaying facets of His character, igniting us with His firey love, awakening us to the intensity of His holiness." In one exercise we were asked to recall and write down at least 5 praiseworthy deeds that God performed in the Old Testament, 5 deeds God performed from the New Testament, 5 deeds God has performed in my faith community, and 5 praiseworthy deeds God has performed in my life. If you are counting, that is 20 deeds. As we shared in groups, many had written some of the same deeds from the Bible that I wrote while others had ones I had not thought about. Other lists recalled more personal moments. Feinberg reminds us that "unless we are intentional about remembering  the deeds of God, we become forgetful aobut God and His presence in our world.

In those days leading up to Pentecost, Jesus spent time with the the disciples, preparing them for when He would ascend back to God, preparing them to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, feeding them with holiness until the coming of the Holy Spirit. Those days had to be full of wonder at all that had happened the last three years, the healings and miracles, the traveling and teaching, the obedience and the lack of understanding. Christ's very presence after the crucifixion and resurrection must have left them wonderstruck. Be wonderstruck, too, when you consider God! Can you list the praiseworthy deeds of God that have impacted your life? -dho 

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Praise His Name

 Easter gatherings with their celebrations are fast becoming memories as plans for Spring Break and summer vacations begin to fill the calendar. Before life fills our plates too full with other thoughts, I would like to spend the next several weeks sharing some of the insights I gleaned during these recent weeks of Lent.~dho
Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods. The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the Lord made the heavens! Honor and majesty surround him; strength and beauty fill his sanctuary. Psalm 96:1-6 NLT


This year for my daily devotionals, I am using A Year With God, Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines by Richard Foster. During Lent, one of the disciplines studied was worship. Foster writes, "When we pour worship out over our daily lives, we grow ever more sensitive to God's voice and presence." In describing some of the praise psalms, he calls them "poetic proclamation". Worship is an essential aspect of faith. Being alert to and recognizing the holiness of God feeds our minds and souls. A heightened awareness of the beauty of creation reveals the majesty of the Creator, opens the heart to God's perfect design. Summing it up with St. Augustine's words, "A Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot." Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Alleluia! Amen! 
-dho

Thursday, April 27, 2017

True Humility

Easter gatherings with their celebrations are fast becoming memories as plans for Spring Break and summer vacations begin to fill the calendar. Before life fills our plates too full with other thoughts, I would like to spend the next several weeks sharing some of the insights I gleaned during these recent weeks of Lent.~dho
As Christians, the mystery of grace teaches us that as we lose ourselves in the overwhelming greatness of redeeming love, humility becomes to us the consummation of everlasting blessedness. Andrew Murray, Humility, the Preface 
One of the books I read during Lent was Humility by Andrew Murray, missionary to South Africa. Murray, Christian writer, teacher, and pastor, lived from 1828-1917. Many of his pithy theological and spiritually applicable writings are now available in reprint. Over the years, I have read several of his books, including Abiding in Christ, Absolute Surrender, and A Life of Obedience. Murray wrote, "True humility comes when before God we see ourselves as nothing, have put aside self, and let God be all."
The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is its lack of humility. Andrew Murray, Humility, pg 61
So often we struggle with our own importance, wrestle with obedience to God, turn from dependence on God. Humility is the antithesis of self-importance, disobedience, and arrogance. Even our pretentious religious words and good deeds lack humility and become the very definition of "counterfeit holiness."  Philippians 2:6-8, 12-16 from The Message give voice to the lessons on humility that Christ teaches:
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion... What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure. Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night...
One Sunday worship service early in the Lenten season, we sang a hymn, and the chorus exclaims the only way we can have true humility, to surrender and be obedient to God: 
Jesus is Lord of all!
Jesus is Lord of all!
Lord of my thoughts and service each day; 
Jesus is Lord of all!
-dho

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Margins of Life

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? James 2:1

Easter gatherings with their celebrations are fast becoming memories as plans for Spring Break and summer vacations begin to fill the calendar. Before life fills our plates too full with other thoughts, I would like to spend the next several weeks sharing some of the insights I gleaned during these recent weeks of Lent. I hope you will look back over your markings in the margins of books read or the scribbles in your journals and find His presence again now, asking how you can make your faith more alive. Spiritual growth is more than asking questions, searching for answers, or finding holy guidance. In these next weeks I will share some of the words and phrases and thoughts that are challenging me to examine myself before God and move to a deeper level of spiritual understanding and response. I would love to hear your thoughts (you can comment at the bottom of the blog post - or contact me here via email with your thoughts.) 
"Where faith is really faith it cannot be shoved to the margins of life." Gerhard Lohfink
One book I have been reading during Lent, Called to Community, The Life Jesus Wants for His People, is comprised of a myriad of Christian educators, writers, theologians, philosophers, pastors, and martyrs, some living long ago and some living now. In one such chapter, Gerhard Lohfink, German New Testament professor, uses this phrase that true faith cannot be shoved to the margins. We are called to Christianity by faith in Jesus, even faith itself is a gift from God. So why would we think that faith is something to hoard or boast about, keeping it to ourselves? When does our busyness begin to dictate our response to God? How am I keeping my faith shoved to the margins of life?

While church is defined as "a community of Believers", it does not infer that all the Believers will be the same, all the same gender, all the same economic level, all the same nationality; rather, even in our differences we have common beliefs. We must all believe that Jesus is the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, sinless and yet betrayed, crucified and died on the cross, and resurrected to new life. These common core beliefs of Christianity bind our hearts and minds and souls with Amazing Grace because of Perfect Love. But, we have to be certain that our individual faith-story isn't just the words to the Apostles Creed, the Newsboys song "We Believe" or Psalm 23. Faith cannot be shoved to the margins and still reflect a true, growing relationship with God, not the margins of society, not the margins of our families, not the margins of our calendars. True faith must be more than scribbled notes on the margins of our Bibles, the good intentions that skip across the margins of our thoughts, the generosity that walks passed the margins of opportunities. "Where faith is really faith it cannot be shoved to the margins of life." -dho

**Again, I would love to hear your thoughts (you can comment at the bottom of the blog post or contact me here via email with your thoughts.) 

  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

EASTER Sunday! ~ Go!

Deus caritas est! “…God is love.” 1 John 4:16
As we enter this season of reflection and renewal, let’s rediscover God calling to His children, revealing His goodness, and transforming each one with Perfect Love. "This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins" (1 John 4:10) ~ Donna Oswalt

More surely than ever before, I know now that we are called to give our very lives to one another and that, in so doing, we become a true community of love. Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved (p 115)

In The True Vine, Andrew Murray writes of Christ's joy: His joy is nothing but the joy of love, the being loved and of loving. It was the joy of receiving His Father's love and abiding in it, and then the joy of passing on that love and pouring it out on sinners. Christ is Perfect Love, an offering to imperfect people. Like His disciples and closest followers, we are imperfect people yet perfectly loved by Jesus. 

As He spoke, He held out His hands for them to see, and He showed them His side. They were filled with joy when they sas their Lord! He spoke to them again and said, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent ME, so send I you. John 20:20-21 NLT

On Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection, Jesus appears to several people, each Gospel giving a similar but varying account of all those who witnessed the risen Savior. John writes of Jesus coming in the evening to the disciples who are meeting behind locked doors fearing the Jewish leaders. Jesus offers them peace and joy; He reminds them this assurance comes from the Father. He breathes the Holy Spirit into them. The are prepared to take the Good News of redemption and reconciliation into the world. The root of Christ's joy is the Father's love.

Jesus gives us the same command today, saying as the Father has sent Me, so send I you. We are to carry the Good News of His amazing grace into the world. We are to build up the community of faith by sharing His love. Christ prepares us with His peace and affirms us with His joy. After Christ's return to Heaven, at Pentecost the Spirit comes to dwell within the hearts of all believers. The sure foundation of our joy is Christ, Perfect Love.

READ John 20:19-23  (complete story of the resurrection, see John 20, 21)

consider this!

- Imagine being in the room with the disciples when Jesus 'suddenly appears'. Describe their joy.

- How does Jesus model the task of sharing the Gospel?

- Have you experienced the resurrected Jesus? How will you share such Perfect Love?

Blessed Assurance! You are Eternal Love! I am overwhelmed that the love of the Father and the grace of the Son and the presence of the Spirit are mine! You choose me and love me and send me to be a witness for You. Your unfailing faithfulness and enduring love prepare my heart with peace and joy! You empower me to tell my faith-story. With the joy of Christ, I go! Amen. -dho

All rights reserved; copyright 2017 by Donna Oswalt/Co-Founder of Mangrove Ministries/Christian blogger and author;  Breathing Room For My Soul (blog)~ Follow on Twitter @soulchat

For more information about this ministry visit ~
LIKE Mangrove Ministries on Facebook