Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Words of Everlasting LOVE



Lord, in this Season of Light ~ May our HOPE reflect His Promise. May our PEACE reflect His Grace. May our JOY reflect His Love. May Everlasting LOVE be born in us again! Amen. ~dho 
O Holy night . . . He appeared and the soul felt its worth

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christ, Real LOVE




May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13


Each year I read the Holy Scriptures that describe the promises of a Faithful God and consider the trusting heart of a young girl, a sign to announce the birth of the Messiah. Each year I ponder the glory that the angels proclaimed, contemplate the wonder of the shepherds, and reflect on the gifts of worship from the magi. Each year I listen to these ancient words that tell the story of Perfect Love.

With these familiar words, God weaves a beautiful tapestry with divine threads of faithful promises and a trusting heart, proclamations of angels and the wonder of shepherds, worshiping magi and Holy Love. He binds these together to reveal His Plan for us, the plans formed long ago. While the Scriptures reveal Perfect Love, we begin to experience Perfect Love and the fullness of God's Glory - at the cross. It is through Christ, the Living Hope, that we experience this most amazing grace!

And me? I know the ancient words but desire to experience the words. Now as then, God's wonders and promises continue, as do my traditional celebrations of Christmas, but unlike me, He is perfect faithfulness and never changes. Beyond the familiar readings and recitations, I experience Grace in a promised fulfilled. As the angels and shepherds did, I experience telling the Good News. Like the magi, I experience the joy of worshiping Christ the King! These ancient words become living words when I experience Christ, when I experience Real LOVE! ~dho

Sunday, December 23, 2012

4th Sunday in Advent ~ Love

Lighting the candle of love ~


For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given, . . .
And He will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6-7

Traditions unfold every year at Christmas, like treasures unwrapped with great care. Each holds special significance and reminds the heart. Our traditions mark time as we revisit old pictures and retell the stories, as we carefully place cherished ornaments on this year's tree, as we bake the Christmas cookies once more. Traditions exist in the repetition of experiences but live in the moments of the heart.

In the moments when we know love, laughter, tears, change, joy or peace, time lives. In between, time passes. During this holy season, as you unwrap your traditions, reflect on the true moments of living, the grace-full gifts, the bountiful blessings God gives. This is the Lord's tradition ~ to bless those who are faithful to Him.

The greatest tradition of Christmas is celebrating the reason for remembering! May we once again unfold the Promise of Immanuel, God with us. May we know Perfect Love and Extravagant Grace ~ the generosity of His Gift ~ the holiness of His peace. Every time we unwrap this treasure and retell His story, time lives! May this tradition remind us of Christ ~ remind us that He is with us always ~ remind us that He lives! ~dho

Friday, December 21, 2012

Word of Everlasting JOY


Joy to the World
Joy to the world! the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav'n and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.

Joy to the World is one of the most published Christmas hymns. Written in 1719 by Issac Watts, English hymn writer and theologian, the hymn was part of a series he wrote based on the Psalms. This particular hymn was written based on Psalm 98, its words glorifying Christ's triumphant return.

Although we often sing this hymn to celebrate Christ's birth, to rejoice like the angels, shepherds, and wise men, singing this hymn is in keeping with the complete spirit of Advent. For during Advent we celebrate the birth of  Christ and joyfully anticipate the return of Christ. When Christ returns to earth, there will be rejoicing! Only from, in, and through Christ can we know deep, abiding spiritual joy! This Christmas, rejoice and be glad and give Him glory, for to know Christ is to know everlasting joy! ~dho

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!" Revelation 19:6-7a NIV



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christ, Real JOY

With joy you will draw water from wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: "Give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the peoples, proclaim that His name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for He has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel."
Isaiah 12:3-5 ESV

According to Jewish tradition during the Feast of Tabernacles, in celebration of joy and thanksgiving for God's provision while in the wilderness, a golden pitcher was filled with water from the pool of Siloam and along with wine was poured over the sacrifice on the altar. The act of pouring out the water was a symbol of repentance. Another act involved lighted torches which the Hebrew people carried around the temple. The purpose of this was to symbolize that "the Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles." [Mary Fairchild, Feast of Tabernacles]

In the New Testament, reading in John 7:37-38, "On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, 'If anyone thirsts let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'" At this Feast of Tabernacles Jesus describes himself as Living Water, poured out for us. The next day, "while the torches were still burning" [Fairchild], Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." [John 8:12] 

"The inevitable result of genuine salvation is joy! The joy found in Christ is like an inexhaustible well, satisfying the most desperate thirst." [Blackaby Study Bible Notes] As you journey through this Christmas season, are you finding Real JOY? If not, perhaps you are looking in the wrong places. You don't have to wander alone in the dry, dark places. The Holy One is here! Christ is Real JOY! ~dho




Sunday, December 16, 2012

3rd Sunday in Advent ~ Joy

Lighting the candle of joy ~

After seeing [Jesus], the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished  Luke 2:17-18 NLT

In this third Sunday in Advent we light the candle of JOY! The Christmas season is full of reasons to have joy -- to celebrate -- to praise God for such extravagant generosity. Images of angels and choirs of angels awaken our imaginations. Words like Glory and Hallelujah echo the sounds of trumpet and tympani. Church bells and hand bells ring with joy. Our hearts stir and our souls smile as we listen to both story and song. 

This world attempts to steal our joy at every corner. Poverty and plenty contradict while tragedy and truth challenge each other. Within our desire for joy, sadness competes for attention. So how do we keep joy-full when angels and choirs and music are silenced by tragedy? Our church is singing this chorus during the Advent season: Emmanuel, Emmanuel, God incarnate, here to dwell. Emmanuel, Emmanuel, Praise His name, Emmanuel. God is with us ~ and that alone is reason for JOY! ~ dho


Friday, December 14, 2012

Word of Everlasting PEACE

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . and be thankful.
Colossians 3:15 ESV

'Peace on the earth, good will to men,
from Heaven's all-gracious King':
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.*

"Peace of God" is often challenged by a world full of anxieties and chaos, doubts and uncertainties, but there is an inner peace the soul knows when faith in Christ leads one to "peace with God." Perfect peace is a gift God gives to the faithful ones who trust in Him.

When peace shall over all the earth
It's ancient splendor fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.*

"Peace on earth" is the promise of His everlasting peace which is still to come. For now, each of us is called to embrace peace offered by the Author of peace, measured by the Prince of peace, and revealed by the Spirit. During this Holy season, let the Prince of Peace be born again in us. May Christ's peace be the ornament that decorates our hearts at Christmas and throughout the coming year. ~dho

* lyrics to "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" written by Edmund Sears, 1849

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kindled Soul, Holy Fire



Are you looking for a unique Christmas gift that will keep giving AFTER Christmas? Consider giving a copy of my devotional book Kindled Soul, Holy Fire. It is full of devotions that seek to find God's goodness and majesty. Designed for the Easter season, you can give it now and let it give again at Easter! Merry Christmas from Mangrove Ministries!

You can order on Amazon.com at the following link!
http://www.amazon.com/Kindled-Soul-Holy-Fire-Meditations/dp/1577364198/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355429668&sr=8-1&keywords=Kindled+soul+Holy+Fire

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christ, Real PEACE

~photo taken by Becky Clark, Greensboro, NC
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises:
'Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please Him.' Luke 2:13-14 MSG

What exactly is peace and what is the path to peace? We know that God is the Source of all true peace; Christ is the Good News of peace sent to us from God. On the night Jesus is born in Bethlehem, peace is the message of the angels.

Peace in the Hebrew [shalom] and Greek [eirene] teaches "absence of disturbance" and is the primary blessing of God's people. Scofield offers four references to peace: Peace with God, Peace from God, Peace of God, and Peace on earth. Deep inside, each us desires the assurance of peace. Only God can provide complete peace. Do you have peace? Are you seeking God for Real PEACE? Let the Peace of Christ be born in you today! ~ dho

Sunday, December 09, 2012

2nd Sunday in Advent ~ Peace

Lighting the candle of peace ~

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given us; 
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Eternal Father, Prince of peace. Isaiah 9:6 NASB


This second Sunday of the Christmas season directs our hearts and minds to peace! What is peace? Tranquility, quiet, harmony, and freedom from oppression are a few words that define peace. It comes from the Latin pacisci meaning 'to agree', while its antonym is war. We value the idea of peace, even the gentleness of peace, and perhaps the security of peace. Although peace is desired, the world is often hostile, loud, augmentative, and full of oppression. As you prepare for Christ this Christmas, where do you find peace? 

In the song Be Born in Me there is a lesson for each of us even though this is a song of Mary's heart. The chorus is a prayer for us: Make my heart Your Bethlehem; Be born in me. Christ is the Prince of Peace. As the Holy Spirit dwells in us, the peace of Christ becomes our peace. Our hearts can become a holy place, like Bethlehem, where love is born. Offer the peace of Christ this Christmas season ~ Make my heart Your Bethlehem; be born in me. ~ dho

Friday, December 07, 2012

Words of Everlasting HOPE

Words to "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" ~ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.!

On Christmas Eve 1863, during the Civil War, Longfellow wrote the words to this now familiar Christmas carol. Longfellow wrote these words "only six months after the Battle of Gettysburg where over 40,000 soldiers lost their lives. One of the country's most influential writers, he taught literature for seventeen years at Harvard University. His faith in the power of God and man to join and transcend the horrors of war gave birth to this song, inspired by his hearing the ringing of the Christmas bells."* Musical scores have been composed over the years making this a very familiar Christmas carol.

My post on the First Sunday of Advent December 2 included a modern arrangement by Casting Crowns. Listen to it again. We all find ourselves is various forms of war every day. Hope lies in remembering God is Sovereign and in control. In surrendering difficult times to Him, our minds find peace. With thanksgiving for His Unfailing Goodness, our hearts know an inward peace. In times of war, in moments of loss, we offer prayers and praises to the Love Most High. Comfort is not simply the peace of God but in knowing the God of peace will be with you. This is Everlasting HOPE! ~ dho 

* www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Christ, Real HOPE






By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us - set us right with Him, make us fit for Him - we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that He has already thrown open His door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand - out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.  Romans 5:1-2 The Message 

Our HOPE comes through Christ! This season gives us opportunities to celebrate Christ's coming to earth - coming into our world; and at the same time, as our hearts remember God's extravagant gift of Love, we find ourselves humbled by the truth that Christ is coming again! Christ is real HOPE for all times, past ~ present ~ and future.

There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary - we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:3-4 The Message

Even when times are difficult, Christ remains our HOPE! In all times, we are to remain "alert for whatever God will do next." The Scriptures say we should persist "in alert expectancy" of what God will do next. So often we create anxiety wondering if and when and how! Rest in the HOPE of Christ. Romans 5:6 takes away the worry: Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't and doesn't wait for us to get ready." Let Christ be your HOPE! Share this lesson of praise and passionate patience with someone else! Share the HOPE of Christ this season! ~ dho

Sunday, December 02, 2012

1st Sunday in Advent ~ HOPE

Light the candle of HOPE ~


HOPE ~ Jesus is THE hope of all the world. As this week begins, consider what HOPE looks like. Will you share the HOPE of Jesus with another person this Christmas season? When you listen, can you hear the bells ringing HOPE for the world? The only way to have spiritual peace is to let the HOPE of Jesus define life. Have you found His peace? ~ dho

* Casting Crowns "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pray More


"Everytime we pray our horizon is altered, our attitude to things is altered, not sometimes but every time, and the amazing thing is that we don't pray more." Oswald Chambers

God Alone Can See

Hymn of Promise

words/music: Natalie Sleeth, 1986


In the bulb there is a flower;
in the seed, an apple tree;
in cocoons, a hidden promise: 
butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter
there's a spring that waits to be,
unrevealed until its season, 
something God alone can see.

There's a song in every silence,
seeking word and melody;
there's a dawn in every darkness,
bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future;
what it holds, a mystery,
unrevealed until its season, 
something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; 
in our time, infinity;
in our doubt there is believing; 
in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection;
at the last, a victory,
unrevealed until its season, 
something God alone can see.

I heard this hymn a few weeks ago at my daughter's church, and love the words! In its simplicity there is great depth and meaning. The theme is repeated at the end of each verse ~ no matter the time, whether a time of beginning, of waiting, of doubting, God's promise to us remains. Through all the uncertainty that life brings, we can be certain of God's goodness. His tender love for us reaches through the difficulty, through the unknown. God has a plan for each of His children and desires a relationship with each of us. Even when we cannot see the reason, the answer, or the end result, God can. Trust is the key component in every relationship. Do you trust God with everything? 

This week I have been following a Facebook page Prayers for Gabe. The young mother of Gabe updates the page. Seems a couple of weeks ago, this two year old was burned in a freak accident. It first came to my attention when I a mutual FB friend noted the page. The family is from Mississippi, which caught my attention, but currently is receiving care in the Burn Unit in Augusta, GA. In a short two weeks, thousands ~ in fact, over 10,000 people ~ have responded to the the page. Most do not know the family; some have experienced burns or family members have been burned. All offer prayers and words of encouragement to this mother who sits beside her child as he struggles to live. Tragedy, disappointment, and uncertainty come in unexpected ways, at unpredictable times. In times like these, we must turn to God for comfort and encouragement, seek His unfailing love and faithful provisions, find His peace! We must trust that God alone can see!  ~dho

Friday, November 09, 2012

God IS Gracious!

"God is gracious - it is He who makes things right, our most compassionate God.
God takes the side of the helpless; when I was at the end of my rope, He saved me.
I said to myself, "Relax and rest. GOD has showered you with blessings.
Soul, you have been rescued from death; Eye, you have been rescued from tears; and you, Foot, were kept from stumbling." I'm striding in the presence of GOD, alive in the land of the living!
I stayed faithful, though bedeviled, and despite a ton of bad luck, . . .
I'm ready to offer the thanksgiving sacrifice and pray in the name of GOD.
I'll complete what I promised GOD I'd do, and I'll do it in company of His people" Psalm 116:7-10, 17,18 The Message


This week a friend lost her wallet which had a significant amount of cash inside. A few hours later she received a call from the Sheriff's Department; someone had turned in her wallet after they found it in a parking lot! AND, all the money was still there! According to the Sheriff's clerk, the person who turned it in did not want to leave a name, just hoped it would be returned. The most unusual thing is that my friend's phone number was not in her wallet. Her driver's license was there but she does not have a land line phone, and her cell phone is a disposable phone to which she keeps adding minutes. We aren't sure how they found her number! God's angels are all around!

When difficult and unexpected craziness interrupts our days, when disappointment and unexplained chaos interferes with our weeks, when deception and uneven cracks intersects our way, we must remember it is God who is gracious and loving! In God we find rest and peace! Offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving ~ a praise, a Hallelujah, a 'thank-You, Jesus' should be our frequent response, our faithful reply! God, who is always gracious, desires our obedience to Him and our praise! Be alert! God is always present ~ don't miss Him in the craziness of this world! ~ dho
  

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Listening for God's Voice

"Some read the Bible to learn, and some read the Bible to hear from heaven." Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray, a South African missionary in the late 1800's into the early 1900's, is well known for his many devotional writings. Murray's writings reflect his understanding that the Holy Scriptures connect us to the living God and are not just a set of rules or an account of history. In A Life of Obedience Murray explains it is through Scripture God is revealed to each of us so "that God's people might be equipped to do His will as it is done in heaven, and to be restored to the perfect obedience upon which God's heart is set." From the Holy Spirit "the Word of the living God [is spoken] to us and into us if we are to know its full power." Murray adds, "All Scripture will become the simple revelation of what God is going to do for you, in you and through you."

In 2 Timothy 3:16 we read, "Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God'w will in thought, purpose, and action, so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work." Through the Holy Scriptures God whispers and sometimes shouts to us. As we study God's word, our questions should not be Does God hear me? or Does God have a plan for me? Of course God hears us and has a plan. Rather the question we need to ask ourselves is Am I listening for God's voice?God reveals himself to us through His Word. Open the Bible and seek the living God. LISTEN! ~ dho


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Proof!

In the late 1500's and early 1600's, Galileo became a scientist that influenced many areas of mathematics, astronomy, physics and philosophy. A devout Catholic, Galileo's understandings of the universe differed with the accepted view that the earth was the center of the universe and the sun and all planets revolved around the earth. Through his studies and observations, he concluded that the earth revolved around the sun. The Pope and the church leaders thought this was heresy. They believed his theories were contrary to the Holy Scriptures. A Roman Inquisition of Galileo forbid him to speak of these theories. Ultimately, he was put under house arrest for the rest of his life. The scientific truth ~ Galileo's theory which was proven in time ~ eventually provided evidence to those who did not believe. Sometimes, giving proof is hard!

Proof is defined as sufficient evidence for a truth statement. "The Sixth Edition of Black's Law Dictionary" explains burden of proof this way:
"Ei incumbit provatio, qui dicit, non qui negat; cum per rerum naturam factum negantis probatio nulla sit . . . The proof lies upon him who affirms, not upon him who denies; since, by the nature of things, he who denies cannot produce any proof."
Atheists and God-seekers alike want proof of God. Doubt inside our frail humanity shouts its insecurity, "How do you know? What proof do you have? Most often evidence is drawn from our experiences combined with evidence from nature. Even the greatest scholars confess the great mysteries of God exceed explanation. So where's the proof?

A few weeks ago I heard a song from a newly emerging Christian group called "For King and Country". It is called Proof of Your Love. As I listened, the words remind that WE are the proof - you and me, God's children, those of us who identify with Christ, who call Him Savior. OUR LIVES are the proof that God loves! This very sobering thought raises a new awareness in me. What evidence of Christ does my life offer? Does my life story speak the love of Christ?

Years ago there was a question asked, "What if you are the only Jesus someone sees?" Those who struggle with walking by faith often expect or demand answers to their theological questions. We respond that the Holy Scriptures reveal God and His plan of Grace through faith for all mankind. While we many not understand all that is written within these God-breathed words, God's message is clear. As Christians we are to love God and love each other. Our only true understanding of unconditional love is Christ! We are called to love as Christ loves! The way we love becomes the evidence that we understand God's message. We are the proof of His love! ~ dho






Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Patience

Patience is the companion of wisdom. ~ St. Augustine  

Most of us struggle with patience in some area of our lives. For some being patient with children demands counting to 10 (sometimes twice), while others have to remind themselves to breathe in AND out when dealing with teenagers. Slow drivers with 'seasoned experience and their big cars' can send patience out the window; long lines, late people, and heavy traffic snatch patience from others. Hypocrisy, lying, whining or procrastination can tip the scale of patience. We know what triggers our frustration whether we admit it or not. In the scheme of life, I suspect none of these things really matter very much.

The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom, beginning with The purpose of these proverbs is to teach people wisdom and discipline...Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Only fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:1,7 NLT). Later, Chapter 14:26-30 gives this advice: Those who fear the LORD are secure; He will be a place of refuge for their children. Fear of the LORD is a life-giving fountain; it offers escape from the snares of death. Those who control their anger have great understanding; those with a hasty temper will make mistakes. A relaxed attitude lengthens life! 

The discipline that unites with wisdom gives birth to the patience in our lives. I suppose an absence of patience could point to a lack of wisdom. Ouch! Over the last several weeks in different venues I have heard a Proverb used, not incorrectly but without a reference of the phrase. Perhaps the ones speaking did not KNOW where their saying is found. Proverbs 27:17 says this: As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend. Are you surrounding yourself with faithful friends, those who not only hold you accountable but desire to encourage you? Do your friends add value to your spiritual growth? A wise friend challenges you to be more, stands beside you, prays for you. Just as the Lord teaches patience and wisdom complement each other, a faithful friend can champion your heart. So, this week, spend some time reading about wisdom in Proverbs, thank God for faithful friends, and let your new relaxed attitude lengthen your life of Kingdom-service! - dho

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Healer

LORD, You alone are my portion and my cup, You make my lot secure. 
Psalm 16:5



Healer by Kari Jobe

Thursday, September 13, 2012

All Power and All Glory!

My favorite Sunday School song between first and third grades was Tell Me the Stories of Jesus. We frequently sang it as we gathered in a large group before breaking into our respective classes. It's a song we rarely hear anymore, but the images of Jesus that it evoked have stayed with me over the decades. Thoughts of "things I would ask Him to tell me if He were here"  and His "words full of kindness and deeds full of grace" mixed with "scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea" while "the children stood around His knee"  filled my mind. I could almost hear the "stories of Jesus". Sweet memories of a simple time refresh my soul.

Now, life is NOT so simple, and Jesus is NOT only kindness and grace. Jesus is more! Jesus is holy and righteous, power and glory, peace and justice. Jesus is Perfect Love. As I have grown older and in my faith walk, my understanding of Jesus has grown deeper roots. While He is STILL the Jesus that told stories by the sea - Jesus is more! Jesus is rest for the soul, peace during the chaos, joy in the adversity. Jesus knows every heart, the deepest wounds. the greatest fears, the smallest hope! Jesus is the story we tell others. 

Yet, Jesus is MORE! He is all Hope and  the path to Everlasting Life. To recognize Jesus as the Messiah is to fully embrace the resurrected Lord, believing He will return as promised. When Christ returns, He will be All Power and All Glory! 
Then I say heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one know but himself. He is clothed in a robe dripped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of Lords. Revelation 19:11-16
Holy, Holy, Holy - King of Kings and Lord of Lords ~
'Faithful and True,' You come as a warrior on a white horse marked as All Power and All Glory, Righteous and Ruler. Your robe bears witness to my soul's redemption; Your battle becomes my soul's greatest victory. Wordless, I lay face down before The Word of God, offering tears of praise and gratitude. You are Absolute Power, Perfect Love, Pure Grace. My soul whispers Holy! Holy! Holy! ~ dho
 

Friday, September 07, 2012

HOLY!


Psalm 24:7-8 NLT
Open up, ancient gates! 
Open up, ancient doors, 
and let the King of Glory enter.

Who is the King of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, invincible in battle. 



Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Roman Road

Jesus said: "Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:19-20 The Message

We are called to go out and share the gospel of Jesus. So, how can we do that? When I was growing up, one of the measurements used asked us to record our "contacts" every Sunday in Sunday School. The data collected reflected the number of people I had actually invited to come to church with me. There were many times that number was "0". 

Today, there are many more opportunities that provide avenues to share God's Word, but are we using them? While inviting the unchurched to come to church is still important, each one of us has many more ways to give witness to our beliefs. Social media is one way. There are new "apps" every day that increase our ability to communicate. In the 'old days' a handwritten note would be mailed to keep in touch with a visitor; now an email or text can accomplish the task almost immediately after a visit. How are you using your social media tools to share Jesus with others?

In the June 2012 issue of Christianity Today's magazine, Robert Crosby sheds some light on the expanding world of technology and how this is impacting Christianity's witness. More people are becoming "engaged" in reading the Bible because of smartphones, tablets and laptops. He specifically gives the reader an update on YouVersion, the "fastest growing Bible app for mobile devices." Another segment features the creator of "the Bible page on Facebook." Sometimes posting a Bible verse on Facebook gets "10,000 responses from around the globe" in as little as 10 minutes.
Crosby writes: The ancient Roman roads spanned more than 250,000 miles... enabling both the empire to grow and the gospel to advance rapidly. Today's Roman roads are the Internet, the smartphone, the tablet, and social media, ready and waiting for innumerable journeys of faith and witness. While the ancient roads connected hundreds of towns and cities, the new ones connect millions of homes and individuals.*
Opportunities in this new era are expanding as I type and hold vast possibilities. In a recent discussion of social media the question was asked, "How do you use Social Media to spread the gospel of Jesus?" Most of us have email accounts, and many of have Facebook or some similar social media. We text to keep in touch and share pictures and "moments" but do we utilize these tools to speak the name of Jesus?  Share a Scripture, a song, a quote, a thought, a photograph, a video that says Jesus love you! Start a blog! People are hungry and thirsty for the Word of God. As Oswald Chambers often said, "Be the broken bread and poured out wine." to someone. Take the New Roman Road. Try it today . . . and the day after and the day after! - dho



* Christianity Today, "The Social Network Gospel"; Robert C. Crosby, June 2012, pg. 36-40.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hope Passionately and Confidently

Out of the depths I cry to You, O LORD!
O Lord, hear my voice!. . .
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope . . .
Psalm 130:1,5 ESV

Life is full of choices and consequences. Every dilemma, each decision can evoke emotions from delight to disappointment. Actions range from selfish manipulation to self-less motivation, from seeking one's own desires to seeking God's will. Even the every day, ordinary responses to life bring either frustration or fulfillment. In the depths of disappointment and despair, God's promise of His Presence reassures. We cry out to God because He hears us, because He loves us, because He chooses us!

Eugene Peterson writes about this Psalm in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction:
"By setting the anguish out in the open and voicing it as a prayer, the psalm gives dignity to our suffering. . . Suffering is set squarely, openly, passionately before God. It is acknowledge and expressed. It is described and lived."
As we reflect on our suffering, consider the words of the psalmist and seek the LORD! When we cry out to the LORD while waiting for Him with hope, we become more authentic in our faith.  Peterson goes on to say, "Hope . . . means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions." Getting lost in our suffering is not living our prayers. Authentic faith passionately lives before God trusting Him for necessary provisions. Authentic faith works through times of suffering, confident that God will provide the meaning and conclusions for His Glory! Live passionately and confidently in God. ~ dho

The LORD replied, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14
 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shelter of the Most High

For he will command his angels concerning you
 to guard you in all your ways. 
Psalm 91:11




Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Wireless Plan

Seems every mobile phone company has a "deal"! It is always a different bundle or package, new texting rates, extended data plans, and on and on! Most of us these days are accompanied by our mobile phone almost everywhere. We check our email, text a quick message, or make a call. Ringtones can be set to identify particular callers. To avoid interruptions, we can 'silence' our phones. Today's smartphones double as computers. So, what wireless plan do you have? Is it the best?

The following was on a church sign:
The best wireless plan?
PRAYER - unlimited
minutes, unlimited messages!

Clever and it catches our attention because it speaks our language! God's wireless plan is best. This plan is not just voice activated, but thought activated, and when the heart and mind can't find words, the Holy Spirit expresses the need for us. Free, unlimited time with the Lord - no restrictions on days or times. His PRAYER line is open 24-7, 52 weeks or 365 days a year [366 days during Leap Year]. "525,600 minutes" a year ~ FREE! Unlike some of the people we call or text who don't really want to talk to us, God always wants to spend time with us. Be still and know that I am God. No ringtone required!

Choose God's wireless plan ~ now and always! This deal is 'forever'!  ~ dho

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

To God our Savior

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.  Jude 24-25 NKJV



Only 25 verses long, Jude's letter to the 1st century Christians continues to echo through millenniums to us, the 21st century Christians. Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, the brother of James, the writer of the Epistle of James, writes this letter around 60-64 AD to warn believers of false teachers and to encourage believers to live holy lives. 200 centuries later, these words still warn and encourage us. The writer of Ecclesiastes concludes, "There is nothing new under the sun." The same sinfulness and truthfulness still battle for control today. Warren Wiersbe's commentary in the Transformation Study Bible makes it simple and clear: The truth doesn't change; it applies fresh every day. 


In verses 20-23, Jude gives us a lesson in authentic faith, a living faith. With Christ, our faith becomes holiness, our prayers rise through the Holy Spirit, and mercy is ours in His love. Christ calls us to live lives of compassion and discernment, lives full of His love. Jude, like his brother James, gives a call to authentic faith, a faith of words and deeds, a faith that demonstrates the grace of Christ. How does your faith look? How does your faith live? Do those in your circle of influence find your faith journey to be marked by authentic faith?


The last two verses are a doxology full of praise to God, the only One who is wise, the only One worthy of praise, the only One that is both glory and majesty, authority and power. Only God offers grace that invites us into His presence both now and forever. This evokes both Hallelujah and AMEN to sing together deep inside my soul!!  ~ dho

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Worship His Holy Name!

The LORD is the source of all goodness and blessings.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! I'll worship His HOLY NAME!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The LONGEST Day


"My prayers are nothing other than a sense of the presence of God."
Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God
Thomas -  Summer 2012 at Ocean Isle, NC ~ healed!


A year ago today ~ Our family is waiting for a plan from neurosurgery at Duke University Hospital for my 9 year old nephew who has just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. In the PICU, severe illnesses surround us, even share our room. The reality that we are not the only ones to suffer becomes the buffer between urgency and panic. All anyone of us can do is pray! The 48 hours before and the 48 hours after become the LONGEST day and launch an unexpected faith journey. 


Many faithful friends and their friends and friends of their friends prayed with us and for us. Literally, people all over the world prayed. For any who do not know about our journey, this link http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/thomasmcgirr will take you to Thomas' Caring Bridge site that chronicles the amazing journey. As always we say to God be the Glory! for His Faithfulness is the anchor of our souls.


There are times when emotions make finding the words to pray feel impossible. Remember, the language of prayer is not about the right words. To be in the presence of God is prayer. Find His presence and rest there. Scripture assures us that if we do not know what to pray, the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress and prays for us, speaking our deepest, wordless groans.[Romans 8:26-28] Allow the presence of God settle around you and embrace you. To God be the Glory! Hallelujah! ~ dho

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Even If . . .


2 Corinthians 4:7-10 “ . . . We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.  That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. . . We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t been broken."

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Freedom's Opportunity


You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don't let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.  Galatians 5:13-14 CEB

Americans celebrate the 236th birthday of freedom this day, July 4, 2012. Often we use the word freedom as permission to do whatever we want, whatever might satisfy our own personal desires. While it is true, freedom has wide boundaries, this is not the intention of freedom. In the Epistle of James we read about the "royal law found in Scripture" [James 2:8] which reminds "you do well when you really fulfill the royal law found in Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself." Christians find true freedom in Christ, our liberty from the captivity of sin. This GRACE is for the asking, no strings attached - but the responsibility of such extravagant freedom transforms our hearts. Our focus can no longer be consumed with selfish motivations. Instead, we are to exercise freedom with love for others - upholding this "royal law". This is freedom's opportunity for all!  

In every way, then, speak and act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom. [James 2:12 CEB]

In 4th grade, we learned all four verses to My Country 'Tis of Thee. I can still see them written on the blackboard with white chalk. As we learned each verse, we would sing it. Of course, things were different then. We also said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning; the American flag hung in every class room. Prayer had not yet been removed from public schools, and it was not a crime for a teacher to speak God's name. That same year, we practiced civil defense drills, too. Anyone remember those? We would get under our school desks for the drill. These were practiced in case America was attacked. I smile at the absurdity of thinking this would have kept any of us safe in an attack. Yet, my heart immediately goes to 9-11 when America was attacked! Getting under the desk did not save anyone. If fact, the only way to save America is for its people to live Christ's law of freedom. Don't miss freedom's opportunity! - dho
Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom's holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.*

* the 4th verse to "My Country 'Tis of Thee

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Journey Notes


photo property of Donna Oswalt

You'll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does. Ecclesiastes 11:5b The Message

For the last seven years, I have consistently kept a devotional-prayer journal. It is small enough to easily take with me and fits inside a Bible. I do not necessarily write in it every day, but there are times I do. Scripture, random ideas, new words, and meanings of words often find their way to the pages. Excerpts from articles, books or commentaries that effect me are also written or attached within the pages. One thing I always put in my journal is my Scripture for the year ~ the one I believe the Holy Spirit has given me. There are pages flagged as prayer requests come to me; this reminds me and gives me a place to make notes of specific needs and outcomes. 


There is one unique entry I always include: on the first page of each notebook ~ I make note of a Scripture that defines where I am spiritually when I start the book ~ my journey note. I often discover this to be way the Spirit leads me during this phase of my journey with Him. Occasionally, I also write a quote or commentary that speaks to His Word. When the book is complete, when no more empty pages remain, I mark the front with the beginning and ending dates and begin another. Looking back I can always find a richness of God's teaching, wisdom and leading and a deeper understanding of my struggles, successes, and relationship with God. Sometimes, the very circumstances that brought me the most discomfort reveal my most intimate times of spiritual growth with God. 


My current journal note is this Scripture from Ecclesiastes and reflects a truth that our American, can-do attitude frequently challenges. We desire to be in control, even if only to know what comes nextMy nature is to explore and examine and reach conclusions. I like to understand how all the pieces fit together. The MacArthur Study Bible commentary on this verse gives great insight: 
"The world is full of things over which one has no control                              - including the purposes of God." 

So in the daily journey with the Father, we should be seeking His will and purpose in life, listening for His voice to lead, and knowing His compassion as peace. We must trust God with thankful hearts ~ thankful God loves unconditionally, and trusting Him to work all things into His perfect plan. Because try as I might, I will never understand the mystery at work in all that God does. ~ dho

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Anchor of Hope


This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast... 
Hebrews 6:19 NASB
Christ is the HOPE we have as Christians. He is Grace that is Greater and Blessed Assurance. With Christ and in Christ and through Christ, we can know a HOPE that is both sure and steadfast. In times when the ocean roars, when storms threaten, when darkness covers our celestial navigation, with this HOPE we will endure until calm waters return.
Whatever circumstances come, let us go forward with HOPE, find our rest in HOPE and our strength through HOPE, sure and steadfast. When someone asks you what HOPE is, tell them, "It's an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God." Hebrews 6:19 The Message)  Tell them, "HOPE is Christ!" ~dho
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.*
* from O Worship the King
** to read more about Thomas' journey with brain cancer~
http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/thomasmcgirr/journal/1


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Grace in the Wilderness

GOD put it this way:
"They found grace out in the desert, these people who survived the killing. Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them!" GOD told them, "I've never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love and more love!" Jeremiah 31:2-3 MSG


Israel learned what it meant to live in the wilderness. When God used Moses to rescue them from the bonds of slavery in Egypt, they eventually spent forty years in the wilderness. At all times God's presence was with them. When they were taken into captivity in the foreign land of Babylon, full of idol worship, their exile held them hostage in a spiritual wilderness. Again in Jeremiah, God reminded them that He was their God, that they were His people. God's promises rescued them. In the wilderness, while Israel was out looking for a place to rest, [they] met God out looking for them!"  


What about you and me? What does it take to survive in the wilderness without comfort, in a desert dry with disappointment, in a foreign land surrounded by uncertainty? Our life experiences often mirror the journey of the Old Testament Israel. Our chains of bondage may look different, and our captives may be known by other titles; the unfamiliar may exceed geography and customs. While confusion shouts in the wilderness, our continued thirst begs for more. What is your desert? Where will your wilderness lead? What is your Babylon? 


Let's take the Scripture, this Living Word of God spoken to Jeremiah centuries ago and put ourselves into the verse. "I found grace out in the desert, after I survived my times of trouble. I was looking for a place to rest and met God out looking for me! God tells me, I've never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love and more love! The Promise of God's everlasting Love exceeds all things, even the hardest and most difficult seasons. God is always with us; in fact, He is out looking for us!  Jesus is our comfort and joy, our strength and certainty in the desert. He can break the chains of bondage, release us from our captivity by false gods. He is the Living Water! Jesus is our Grace in the wilderness. ~dho

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Until the Throne of God!

But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned to me by the Lord Jesus - the work of telling others the Good News about God's wonderful kindness and love. Acts 20:24 NLT



"God is so GOOD!" That's a frequent phrase I heard Evelyn Gardner repeat. Her faithful teaching and witness was salted and peppered with her dear southern-isms made more delightful by her Georgia drawl. Each one followed by a smile then a quiet but genuine laugh. After moving from NC in 2003, I have missed Evelyn, although our paths crossed several times over the years. Today her memorial service was held at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC. I am in Augusta,Georgia, only a few hours from where she was raised in Toccoa. Evelyn is most certainly with the LORD! 


I don't remember exactly when I met Evelyn, but it is likely by being in one of her Bible Studies. For the 20 years I knew Evelyn, she was always teaching Sunday School and leading some Bible study, sharing the Good News about God's wonderful kindness and love. I have fond memories of both Evelyn and her sister, Martha, as I listened to stories of growing up in their beloved Toccoa, Tift College days, career decisions, and military adventures in Hawaii. I once had the opportunity to drive them to Chapel Hill for a doctor's appointment for Martha. It was a good day! On Cool Spring Street, lunches at Heritage Place and afterwards the casual conversation in Martha's apartment provided all three of us with soul food. Even after I moved, and Martha's cancer worsened, our visits, while fewer, continued to delight my soul! Evelyn was a faith-full prayer warrior and regularly prayed for me. Often her cards would arrive to remind me of her prayers at a divinely ordained moment. Yes, God is so Good!


Paul wrote "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. [2Timothy 4:7]. Evelyn can stand before her Creator, Redeemer and Friend and humbly repeat Paul's words. She has written a living letter for Christ on the hearts of those she touched, including mine. My life has been blessed by Evelyn and her living testimony. Matthew Henry's Commentary reflects on Acts 20 and shouts to my soul: It is good for friends, when they part, to part with prayer. Those who exhort and pray for one another, may have many weeping seasons and painful separations, but they will meet before the throne of God, to part no more. Despite moving, in spite of death, there will be reunion in Christ! Now that's the GOOD NEWS!


Evelyn shared the Good News with great joy, carried her life sorrows with dignity, enriched the lives of countless women directly and indirectly, and always remained faithful to the Lord. This is the example I hope to follow. So, until we meet again before the throne of God, dear friend, I will strive to use [my life] for doing the work assigned to me by the Lord Jesus - the work of telling others the Good News about God's wonderful kindness and love. I'll be seeing you! ~ dho