Thursday, March 31, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ Life, A Choice





Either God is right or the world is right. It cannot be both. . . Christianity is not merely a change in outward actions of a bit higher moral or ethical level. Christianity is a revolutionary change of government that results in a radical change in behavior.

Ray Stedman from The Power of His Presence

God presents the truth, then gives us a choice ~ Him or the world. Our choice of Christ goes beyond a verbal confession. After our words, our behavior defines us. As we seek a deeper relationship with God, our lives will evidence our testimony that we choose life!

Read 1 John 5:11-12

This is the testimony in essence: God gave us eternal life; the life is in His Son. So, whoever has the Son, has life; whoever rejects the Son, rejects life. The Message

Consider this!
  • When I survey my behavior, does it more often reflect the world or Christ?
  • Describe worldly behavior.
  • What is my testimony?
God ~ Goodness and Grace are offered to me! Every day I am surrounded by the world but embraced by You. I choose Christ! I choose Life! As You draw near to me, I find a peace the world will never give. Amen. ~dho
All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt                                                                    

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ God's Testimony

God is love. His whole nature and perfection is love . . . Christ is the Son of God's love, the bearer, the  revealer, the communicator of that love. . . The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of love. . . Full salvation is perfect love. 

Andrew Murray from The True Vine (pg. 115)

In this world we rely on the testimony of witnesses when seeking to discover the truth. Courts and judges listen intently to these accounts. The Bible also provides us with a record of holy testimony regarding Jesus.

Read 1 John 5:6-10

And all the while the Spirit is confirming the truth, the reality of God's presence at Jesus' baptism and crucifixion, bringing those occasions alive for us. A triple testimony: the Spirit, the Baptism, the Crucifixion. And all three are in perfect agreement.
1 John 5:6-8 The Message

Christ is declared the Beloved Son of God, confirmed by the Spirit. God's testimony is further evidenced by Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. This is Perfect Love offered as full salvation ~ for each of us.

Consider this!
  • Read Galatians 4:3-7.
  • What does "slaves to the spiritual powers" mean?
  • What defines us as "His child"?
  • What does my testimony say about Christ?
Father, Son and Holy Spirit ~ Guard my heart from the powers of the world that pursue me. Forgive me when my actions do not bear witness to the holiness of Christ. Thank You for full salvation. Amen. ~ dho
All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt                                                                                                                                                              

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ Victory Through Jesus


Though the devil would have us believe he is invincible, his cause has already been doomed by the cross.

Ray Stedman from Spiritual Warfare (pg.50)


There are those who do not believe in "evil" or "the devil" or "Satan" even though the Bible speaks of it many times. There are those who do not believe that Jesus came to earth ~ fully human and fully God. There are those who do not believe Jesus is the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures. Does what we believe about Jesus really matter?

Read 1 John 5:4-5

And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:5 NLT

Christ died on the cross for every one's sins ~ all our acts of disobedience nailed Him there. Christ redeems all who believe ~through His resurrection from the dead three days after the crucifixion; Grace embraces us. Satan and his spirit-followers would have you discount this, even though it is recorded in the Holy Scriptures. Only Perfect Love can offer Grace to us. The specifics about Jesus do matter. They carry an eternal significance!

Consider this!
  • Using any translation of the Bible, find at least 3 references to evil
  • Find at least 3 passages in the Scriptures that reference "trust"
  • Is Jesus Christ ~ the Messiah ~ the Son of God ~ the Living Word?
Lord ~ I see evil in the world around me and experience the drama of evil in my life. Satan only offers disorder and chaos and destruction. Jesus, You give my soul peace that I cannot explain. You offer what the world cannot ~ eternal life. I am trusting You to lead me through the darkness into the light along this earthly journey. Amen. ~dho
All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt                                                                                                                                                              

Monday, March 28, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ Disobedience

The obedience that keeps His commandments becomes the outward expression of our love for God.

 Andrew Murray from A Life of Obedience


Disobedience started all our problems. In the Garden, God created everything that any of us could ever need. All He asked was that we obey one thing ~ not to eat from the Tree of Life. One person's disobedience ended the completeness of Eden.


Read 1 John 5:1-3
Loving God means keeping His commandments . . . 1 John 5:3 NLT
"Christ overcame disobedience and gives us the power to replace ours with His obedience." (Murray, Life of Obedience pg.25) Believers are to strive for a life of true obedience to God, but because of Adam's disobedience human kind struggles with sin. Christ's obedience to the Father's will, His obedience to the Cross, becomes our path to righteousness. This is the way God loves.

Consider this!

  • Who is Jesus Christ?
  • What is the root of sin?
  • Can you show love to others without obedience to Christ?
Father ~ I know that without You sin rules. Obedience is a choice that I can make because Christ was obedient to the cross. I desire to be obedient to Your will for me. Amen. ~ dho
All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt                                                                                                           
                                                   

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ Fruitful Living

3rd Sunday in Lent


The fruit of righteousness is that fruit that is exercised in us by the Holy Spirit.
R.C. Sproul from The Holiness of God

Without God, we do not have faith; we cannot love. God IS love, and because He loves us, we can know love. Christians are to demonstrate the fruit of His love to others. When we call ourselves His children but do not love, we deceive each other. 


Read 1 John 4:19-21

We love because He first loved us . . . Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:19,21 NIV

The commentary in the Student Bible says John "uses the word love 35 times" in this letter. His themes are "simple themes - light, truth, life, love" and "[i]n every case, he shows God as the source of power in the Christian life." When we justify our broken relationships ~ our selfishness, our self-reliance, our self-righteousness ~ we are attempting to be our own source of power. Every time, we will fail. Our lives can only be fruitful because the Holy Spirit dwells in us. This is the evidence of righteousness. This is holiness. This is the Living Word evidenced through us. This is the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
 (Galatians 5:22-23). 

Consider this!
  • Can the law make us love?
  • What fruits of the Spirit are missing from my life?
Love Most High ~ Such generous Love and Mercy flows from You. You are the Source of goodness and grace, love and power, life and death. In You I can find all things good. You are Holy and Righteous. Teach me how to grow my life more like yours. Amen. ~dho
All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt                                                                                                

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ Fearless Love

  

What Jesus do you serve? Todd Agnew


In Agnew's song, he asks us What Jesus do you serve? Do we serve the Jesus of the stained glass church or the One that walks among the broken? It's a good question. More often than not, most of us find our comfort zone of service safe within the walls of the church. Jesus, however, almost always was found outside the Temple, among the sick, the needing ones.


Read 1 John 4:17-18

. . . in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. . . 1 John 4:17-18 NIV

Christians are called to step out into the world, to be the Christ-light for others. We are called to stand among the broken, be as Christ to others. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, be a witness for Christ to the lost. Yes, there are hurting, wounded and lost people within the walls of the church; however, the Sprit leads us outside to spread His Light and Love to many more. Many times it is fear that holds us back, gives us pause. These verses tell us that God's Love gives us confidence on the Day of Judgment. Have you demonstrated that confidence to anyone lately? Have you offered the same Assurance to someone broken?

Consider this!
  • What does "love is made complete" mean?
  • When is this "day of judgment"?
  • Does your "fear" clash with "perfect love"?
Jesus ~ You are the Lover of my soul. When the time comes that I stand before you face-to-face, I will find amazing grace. In these days before that time, my heart searches for new ways to reach out ~ in the name of Jesus ~ the way You love. Amen. ~ dho
All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt                                                                           

Friday, March 25, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ Trust the Love

Trust God for the unexpected, and let him surprise you by doing the unexplainable.   

Unknown

No matter the length of study time or depth of study, our human minds cannot grasp the greatness of God. Scripture tells us He is greater than anything in this world. The prophet Jeremiah records God's message to him: Call to Me and I will answer you. I'll tell you marvelous and wonderful things that you could never figure out on your own (Jeremiah 33:3 The Message). Even though we seek Him ~ in all ways ~ we can never fully understand God. 

Read 1 John 4:13-16

. . . Jesus is God's Son . . . we've embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God. 1 John 4:15-16 The Message

Reading these verses reminds us of just how loved we are. John's words to believers give us a way to evaluate our behavior, to help us identify how closely we walk with God. We are to believe, to confess, to live steadily and deeply in Him and to tell others that Jesus has redeemed us, giving us eternal life. We should embrace Jesus ~heart and soul. 

Consider this!
  • What is the proof God gives believers of His Presence?
  • When life is uncertain, what is the believer's certainty?
  • Do I fully embrace God's generous Love?
Jesus ~ You lived God's Love when You allowed the world to hammer the nails! You live God's Love now as our Eternal Intercessor. You will live God's Love when You return for His children. I want to wholeheartedly embrace this Divine Love and share You with others. Amen. ~dho
All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt                                                

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ Too Full

Your emptiness accepted creates a space for God in your life. When you embrace that emptiness, God can begin to fill you. God has a plan for you.

Macrina Wiederkehr from A Tree Full of Angels

We live life so fully, always busy, that we often find ourselves too full ~ with no room left for God. Busyness can keep us from developing an intimate relationship with the Lord. To lay down the world ~ television, newspapers, work, activities ~ and sometimes even church activities is necessary to create time and space for God. Sadly, that is the way we usually go about it - an after thought.

Read 1 John 4:11-12

. . . if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and His love becomes complete in us - perfect love! 1 John 4:12 The Message 

What a beautiful thought ~ Perfect Love is complete in us! The Holy Spirit needs a place to work, and when our lives are too full, there is little room for His Presence.

Consider this!
  • How does God reveal His Love to me?
  • Can God offer Perfect Love to others through me?
  • How much space does my life create for God?
Father ~ Come and dwell in me. It is time to clean house, throw out unnecessary clutter that robs my soul of time with You. Open hands and open ears, I ask You to fill me with holiness, speak to me with wisdom. Make me complete in You. Amen. ~ dho
All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt                                                                            

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ Live Eternally Grateful


. . . [God] makes us passionately and spiritually unbalanced. God steers us in the direction of His kingdom, His purpose, His passions. His desire it not to conform us but to transform us. Not to make us compliant, but to make us creative. His intent is never to domesticate us, but to liberate us.

Erwin Raphael McManus from The Barbarian Way (pg.64)

God's plan for redemption was created long before time. God's redemption transforms us, gives us new life, grants us new freedom. We glimpse eternity now and find the longing for a more intimate relationship with God. 

Read 1 John 4:9-10

This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us . . . 1 John 4:10

God sent His only Son to earth ~ Jesus was betrayed, beaten and buried for our sins. Yet, it is God's Purpose ~ salvation for the sinners ~ that had the last word. Christ lives! And all this for my sins and for your sins, for all sinners. 

Consider this!
  • Define 'real love'.
  • What did Jesus have to sacrifice to come into the world?
  • What does 'real love' offer that the world cannot?
God of Mercy ~ I am not worthy of such love, such sacrifice. You love best of all. At best, my days are filled with token deeds and worthy gestures but none come near to Your sacrifice. I kneel at Your altar with praises for freedom through Christ. Transform me! Amen. ~dho
 All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt      

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ God is Love

Open your hearts to the love God instills . . . God loves you tenderly. What He gives you is not to be kept under lock and key, but to be shared. Mother Teresa


Love is an action, one a person chooses to receive and chooses to give. Because the Spirit lives inside the believer, we are empowered to love, to love like Christ. Commentary in the Life Application Bible says it this way: God's love always involves a choice and an action.

Read 1 John 4:7-8

. . . God is love. 1 John 4:8 NCV

God's love is higher and deeper and wider and grander than we can begin to imagine. He loves us, calls us, draws near to us. God chooses us! When our response is to choose God, we discover more than enough. When we choose God, His love overflows into us. Loving each other is the action that demonstrates His amazing grace.

Consider this!
  • What is the source of all love?
  • Is real love a feeling?
  • How well do I really love?
Love Most High ~ You can only love one way ~ Completely, Generously, Perfectly. Kindle my heart with that tender Love. My heart weeps at such an offering. Forgive me when I hold tightly to Your love, when my selfish soul stops the flow of Perfect Love. Amen. ~dho
All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt                                                                                                                                                              

Monday, March 21, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ God is Greater

I saw the Milky Way in full glory once, while visiting a refugee camp in Somalia, just below the equator. . . I could not lift my sights beyond that refugee camp situated in an obscure corner of an obscure country on the Horn of Africa. Until I saw the Milky Way. It abruptly reminded me that the present moment did not comprise all of life. History would go on. Tribes, government, whole civilizations may rise and fall, trailing disaster in their wake, but I dared not confine my field of vision to the scenes of suffering around me. I needed to look up, to the stars. Philip Yancey from Finding God in Unexpected Places (pg. 29)



Philip Yancey's words paint a true picture of this world ~ full of difficulty and full of God. Those who serve the world do not speak of God, do not listen to God. These unbelievers denounce Christians who faithfully witness for Christ.

Read 1 John 4:4-6

. . . because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 1 John 4:4 NLT

We find ourselves surrounded by chaos and confusion, which always comes from evil; yet we are never alone, always have hope. The Holy Spirit resides within every believer. How easy to get lost in the negative and forget to look for God's Presence ~ it is everywhere! Just take time to look.

Consider this!
  • Can you identify evil influences in your daily life?
  • How can you give God the "greater" place in your life?
  • Is the Spirit abiding in you?

    Holy Father ~ The world speaks a language designed to rob You of glory. Sometimes, the burden of the confusion and disorder almost suffocate me. My Hope is Christ! Like fresh air, the Spirit breathes new life into the darkest moments. You are greater than anything in this world. Amen. ~ dho
All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt     

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ False Prophets

2nd Sunday in Lent    


Kathleen Norris recounts in Amazing Grace of preparing a Bible Study session on the "Antichrist" and her pastor's reply:
What the pastor said was so simple that it will remain with me forever. "Each one of us acts as an Antichrist," he said, "whenever we hear the gospel and do not do it".

Too often we believe what sounds good instead of searching for the truth. Satan is clever because there are always threads of truth in all his deceptions. We get tangled in the rhetoric and miss the point.

Read 1 John 4:1-3

. . . do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. . . every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist. . .
1 John 4:1,3 NIV

Many will try to confuse us ~ evil spirits and humans that are being used by the evil spirits. Scripture tells us that every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.
To acknowledge Jesus requires our words ~ our confession of faith in Jesus ~ and our actions ~ our deeds done in response to our faith. Words are powerful but our actions evidence our faith to others. When we say we believe that Jesus is our resurrected Savior but act without love, we become the Antichrist.

Consider this!
  • What must one believe about Christ to be a Christian?
  • Why is important to know The Truth?
  • Does the Antichrist live at my house?
Father ~ I know the world is full of trickery, and Satan delights in my failure to listen for the Spirit of Truth. I want a discerning heart. Amen. ~dho
All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt                                                                       

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ Fellowship Defined



We are saved so that we might know Him in intimate daily fellowship.   

Steve McVey/ Grace Walk


This growing intimacy defines a deeper relationship. God calls us into community with Him, longs to have intimate daily fellowship with His children. Do we really desire this?


Read 1 John 3:23-24

And this is His commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. Those who obey God's commandments live in fellowship with Him and He with them. And we know He lives in us because the Holy Spirit lives in us. 1 John 3:23:24 The Message

Love defines this mutuality ~ His Love for us, our love for others. In our obedience to Love, we find ourselves both loved and loving. We are never alone when we live in fellowship with Him.

Consider this!
  • What is the character of Jesus?
  • What is required for living in fellowship with Him?
  • What evidence of God's presence is given the believer?
Spirit of Life ~ You draw near to me, call me to live deeply in Christ. Let Love shine through me however You desire. Amen. ~ dho
All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt                                                                                                                      

Friday, March 18, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ Completely Yielded

But many Christians have misunderstood the purpose of the law. The law was given so that people might see their own absolute inadequacy to live in a way that glorifies God.

Steve McVey / Grace Walk


 


We live in a world where anything goes; we live with its illusions of perfection. Success and wealth and beauty demand attention. In our disillusionment, we are discouraged when these self sufficient attempts do not bring satisfaction.

Read 1 John 3:19-22

For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. . . . We are able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we're doing what He said, doing what pleases Him. 1 John 3:20,22 The Message

We cannot save ourselves by following a set of rules. Only through Grace can a relationship with God be established. The world exploits the heart and mind by promoting "more and better". Soon the expectations are greater than the reality. When we focus on Christ and His unending Love, our hearts and minds are renewed. Realizing we no longer work for the world, we can live for Christ.

Consider this!
  • What lies is the world telling me?
  • When God reveals my heart's intentions, what will I see?
  • Do I depend on God or myself?
Jesus ~ My heart often settles for "more and better" when You offer me "the most and the best." My mind struggles with "greater" but You offer "enough." My desire is to completely yield myself to You. Let Your work be done through me. Amen.~ dho
All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt                                                                                                                                                              

 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Preparing for Easter ~ Real Love



I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts. ~John Locke  



The well-known idiom actions speak louder than words is true. If our hearts embrace real love then we will respond with real love to others. Loving is not always easy and involves time and sacrifice. We like to believe ourselves to be generous but often we are more generous with our 'things' than our ''time'.

Read 1 John 3:14-18

This is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave His life for us. So we should give our lives for our brothers and sisters. . . My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring. 1 John 3:16,18 NCV

Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice for us ~ His life on the cross! Scripture says we should give our lives for others. How can that be? Our giving does not have the power to pardon sin, but with Christ, we are empowered to forgive, to listen, to love, to reach into another's pain, to touch another's grief, to celebrate another's joy. With Christ, we speak His name with good deeds and a sincere heart.

Consider this!
  • Have I ever received real love?
  • When was the last time I put down my life, lay down my agenda, gave some of my precious time, offered real love ~ for someone else?
  • What do my actions reveal?
Lord ~ It is so hard to believe in Love so real! It is hard to accept Love so pure! You are Perfect Love given to me. Words come and go, heard and not heard, written and forgotten, but when I love others in their ordinary days, touching their everyday wounds and weaknesses, dilemmas and decisions, fears and failures ~ I am loving You and offering Your Love to others. Use me, Lord! Amen. ~ dho

All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2009 by Donna Oswalt