Thursday, October 31, 2013

Piece by Piece by PEACE

To choose life is to love the LORD your God, obey Him and stay close to Him. He is your life... Be strong and brave. Don't be afraid... don't be frightened, because the LORD your God will go with you.  He will not leave you or forget you...The LORD himself will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forget you. Don't be afraid and don't worry. 

on our knees ~ 
We speak the Hebrew word Yahweh because it is Your covenant name, and we have study Your promises to the descendants of Abraham.  The ancient words recorded centuries before tell the story of humankind and all its frailties.  Words translated from Hebrew tell of Moses and his obedience, tell how You always went before them, preparing the way.  

We call, LORD, because there are promises for us.  The ancient words tell a living story of love and sacrifice and redemption; they tell of a new covenant ~ Christ.  We choose life!  Now, as then, You go before us, preparing the way.

We whisper, Adonai, for You are Lord; You are Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  You are both hope and light. Your Spirit dwells within us. Lord, only through You can we be strong and brave. We long to firmly embrace You. The world entices us, even when we try to draw near to You. Sometimes our journey is not clear, the path uneven, our steps uncertain. When we cannot see, help us remember the ancient words, the living words: The LORD himself will go before you. You are the Promise that chooses us; You are the Love that embraces us. Lord, hear our simple prayers.  Amen. ~dho

When we cannot see, help us remember the ancient words, the living words: The LORD himself will go before you.  Donna Oswalt
You are the Promise that chooses us; You are the Love that embraces us. Donna Oswalt

Monday, October 28, 2013

Guest Blogger!

Thank you, Christian EBooks Today for allowing me to be your guest blogger!

Listening to God's Voice ~ Donna Oswalt - click click here to read! to read!!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Greatest Friendship! ~ Series on Friendship

Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:7-8 NLT



During the Greco-Roman times that Jesus teaches about loving, forgiving and serving others, genuine sacrifice of one's life for another is as rare as the concept of "a good man". This kind of heroic act would not be common, and for the Jewish people, this kind of offering would not be praised. When the Greeks talk about enemies becoming friends after some conflict, these conversations stay within the context of individuals and certainly did not include God. Jesus enters this culture, introduces the idea of reconciliation between a person and God, and offers His own relationship with God, the Father, as an example of divine fellowship. Jesus says, I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love.

Jesus not only describes the blessings of fellowship with God but willing lays down His own life for His friends. As Jesus tells the Disciples, There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends, He knows that in a few hours He will live out these words. But for whom? What friends? For those who beat Him and those who nail Him to the cross, for those who watch and mock, for those who fled in fear and hide, for those barter for His robe, for the liars and hypocrites, for the selfish and greedy, for the lazy and defiant, for the sick - the weak - the poor, for the healthy - the strong - the rich, for the leaders and the followers, the merchants and the farmers, the scholars and the students, for those who steal and murder and commit adultery, for those who hate and those who pretend not to care, for those who smile and pretend not to grieve, for the hopeless and helpless, the homeless, the orphan, the widow, for the elderly, for the children...for those then and those to come, for you...for me! 

Dying for someone upstanding or even good remains a rare, heroic act. Perfect Love lay down His life for the unworthy, the unclean, the sinner, the shunned. No person is worthy of such love, but Jesus chooses us. When Grace meets the enemy, possibilities are endless. This holy relationship can exceed all expectations. Grace invites each of us, I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in My love. This is the greatest Friendship! ~dho

 No person is worthy of such love, but Jesus chooses us. Donna Oswalt

When Grace meets the enemy, possibilities are endless. Donna Oswalt

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Divided Loyalty ~ Series on Friendship

You are My friends, if you do what I command you... I have made known to you everything 
that I have heard from My Father." John 15:14-15 NRSV



In the early first century, Roman emperors expect the people to declare their loyalty to Caesar  acknowledging him as the supreme power. This annual public declaration of loyalty requires every citizen to place an offering on the altar saying, "Caesar is Lord!" Those who refuse, such as Christians who profess their loyalty to Christ, are frequently mocked, arrested, tortured and killed. Under Nero, one of the cruelest Roman emperors, Peter and Paul are put to death, crucified upside down and beheaded respectively, for spreading the Gospel message. The message of the Jesus-followers explains there is a kingdom greater than Rome, directly in opposition to the Roman world view. 

Everyday, the outward expressions of our values conjoin with our commitments to demonstrate where our deepest loyalty lies. When material possessions, political affiliations, and social rankings become priorities, when want replaces need, when spiritual riches dwindle, divided loyalty exposes us. The very first of the Ten Commandments clarifies, "You shall have no other gods before Me." Jesus tells us, "No one can serve two masters for either he will hate one and love the other or he will be devoted to one and despise the other." In another lesson, Jesus reminds that just like you can identify a tree by its fruit, you can identify people by their actions. Loyalty becomes the fruit of our fellowship. 

The Old Testament uses the word hesed for loyalty 249 times, and according to Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary it "is one of the richest, most theologically insightful terms in the OT," Meaning "unfailing love, kindness and devotion," this kind of loyalty usually grows within a relationship, often in a covenant relationship. A covenant relationship involves a promise or vow, whether between God and a person or between individuals.When we enter into a covenant relationship with God, His divine, everlasting promises of reconciliation with Him and victory over sin lavish us with Grace. Remaining in fellowship with God develops our spiritual understanding of trusting Him. This trust blossoms into love evidenced in our lives - in our relationships. The Kingdom of God is greater than Rome, greater than the world, greater than this universe. Does your public declaration of loyalty declare "Jesus is Lord" of my life, my everyday, my every moment? ~ dho

Everyday, the outward expressions of our values conjoin with our commitments to demonstrate where our deepest loyalty lies. Donna Oswalt

Loyalty becomes the fruit of our fellowship. Donna Oswalt

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Loyal Friends ~ Series on Friendship

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. 


December 1963
Every autumn, every year, my heart remembers a time of personal and spiritual growth. After a brain tumor surgery, my grandmother retains her abilities to comprehend situations, but can no longer verbally express herself. Recalling the summer of 1974 finds me thankful for these last months of sharing, both through tears and gestures, but always laughter was louder. Reflections of my paternal grandmother's last stage of living always bring to mind an unusual demonstration of friendship. Her friend remains faceless to me. She's just a name that I heard from time to time over the years. And, just as mysteriously, for nearly 5 months, a red rose arrived each day.


A Remnant of Love

Once long, long ago, who knows just when,
            Greetings were exchanged.
Neighbors for a while, some say, these two
            Strangers became friends.
Conversations of yester-year gone
            And unrecorded,
How I wish I could go back in time
            To find the secret
Of such enduring friendship, a gift
            Of the heart for life . . .

Sunny skies and death, together, cast down
            Shadows on my soul.
Precious as gold, time seemed all too short;
            She would soon be gone.
Silent tears of helplessness inside;
            Laughter was louder.
Old stories retold became treasures,
            Priceless memories.

Although miles and miles apart, friendship
            Did not notice, and
Always, a token of remembrance
            Was placed by her side.
Gentle reminder, gesture of love,
            Each day one red rose.
Only once did she speak to me of
            Death, my constant thought.
Relentless, calloused foe of mortal
            Life claimed her spirit . . .

Her body lay empty beneath a
            Blanket of roses.
I stood beside her grave in sorrow
            For my loss; I wept.
I remember taking one red rose,
            A final farewell.
For me it was a symbol of her
            Friend’s tender heart,
Of such enduring friendship, a gift,
            A remnant of love.

Although more than a decade has passed,
             I still think of her.
Those priceless memories come to mind
            As if time stood still.
Each year when autumn breezes whisper,
            Tears seek revival.
Beneath the sadness I remember
            Laughter was louder.

And my heart is blessed as I recall
            Her final months, when
Always, a token of remembrance
            Was placed by her side.
Gentle reminder, gesture of love,
            Each day one red rose.
How I wish I could go back in time
            To find the secret
Of their enduring friendship, a gift 
Of the heart for life.
(written 1987, Donna Oswalt)

I wrote this poem more than a decade after her death, words eluding my emotions until then. And still, when I think of such friendship, the best definition I can think of is "each day one red rose." What an amazing heart-gift! What a demonstration of love and loyalty! The Life Application Study Bible says, "The greatest evidence of genuine friendship is loyalty." Over nearly four decades later, I have learned this kind of friendship is extremely rare.

God never asks us to do something without having demonstrated it Himself. Jesus tells us to love one another and demonstrates this rare kind of love with His life, death and resurrection. By definition loyalty manifests itself by devotion, honesty, sincerity and support.God models His loyalty to us though His constancy, incorruptibility, steadfastness, and truth. Genuine relationships understand the value of sharing life events; to remember the beginnings, to treasure the laughter, to honor the celebrations, to bear the disappointments, to endure the ordinary, and to love through the endings. God promises to love forever! 

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT) God's love is much more than a token of remembrance or a gesture of love. Christ's unmatched sacrifice becomes God's matchless grace. This holy gift of enduring friendship redefines loyalty's unfailing love as Perfect Love. I have learned this friendship is the rarest of all! ~ dho


Genuine relationships understand the value of sharing life events, to remember the beginnings, to treasure the laughter, to honor the celebrations, to bear the disappoint-ments, to endure the ordinary, and to love through the endings. Donna Oswalt

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT

Thursday, October 03, 2013

For Friendship's Sake ~ Series on Friendship

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

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

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

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


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

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

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