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"