Thursday, November 15, 2018

Extravagant Gifts of Every Day - Gratitude

Loving God,
The night sky is filled with luminaries that
light the darkness. Angels whisper evening
songs to my weary soul. I do not notice.

As sleep gently calls, I forget that I have
breathed the morning air, listened to laughter,
seen the evening sky appear. Another day! 

Something disturbs the rhythm of my sleep, 
summons my soul. In these sleepless moments,
the Holy Spirit is waiting and listens for my
response. I whisper, Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! 

Holy Father, when I fail to see the beauty of
Your day, remind me with a glorious morning
to take my breath away, a soul-laugh that only 
a listening heart can find, and a night sky 
crowded with stars like diamonds that demand
a lingering look. 

My heart bursts with unmeasured thankfulness!  
These are Your ordinary gifts! I simply miss them in my
hectic hours, my scheduled chaos, my saturated time.

Give my heart the desire to breathe,
listen, and see the ordinary with extraordinary 
intention. Grant my soul the desire to breathe,
listen, and see Your Extraordinary Gifts of
Love, Grace, and Joy! Let me seek Your
extravagant gifts in every day! 

Let me shout, Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

Refresh my spirit! Refine my faith! 
Restore my love! Renew my strength!  
Rebuild my trust! Reclaim my soul! 

To God be the glory! Amen.  ~dho   

Thursday, November 08, 2018

God Moments

Affirmation of faith:
"We believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is the Lord of yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is the Lord over life and death.
We believe that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. With His help we can remain faithful when tempted, peaceful when troubled, and loving when opposed. 

We believe that in all things we can be more than conquerors. For neither death nor life, neither the present nor the future, neither suffering nor trials can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen."

God's love finds us where we are whether we are suffering or shouting hallelujah's! Because God desires a relationship with us, He longs to share in our days, whether they are long and full or hurried and fragile or few and peaceful. God walks with us so closely that sometimes we can miss Him ~ especially when everything seems so easy, so good, so simple. I believe only God can make days like these.

From a familiar hymn, these words remind me to be aware of time:
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.*

In the week to come, whatever comes our way, I believe we can find God in our moments. Remain faithful and be aware of His presence! ~ dho

* hymn Take My Life, and Let It Be

Thursday, November 01, 2018

One Thing!

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His templePsalm 27:4 ESV

The world rumbles with distractions and disappointments and gives voice to self-focused agendas. Desire for approval and applause comes from every direction. More replaces need. In the chaos of so many possibilities, our ability to discern God's voice diminishes. Our minds become numb, and our deeds become rote. How do Christians live in the world and in God's presence?

The presence of God must become my dwelling place, the one thingmy heart's greatest desire. To dwell in God's presence brings peace even in troubled times, gives assurance in uncertain times, offers hope in all times. To "meditate" is to be in "constant communion". Without listening in prayer for His voice or being in study and contemplation of His word, we do not see God's beauty and overlook God's faithfulness.

Paul tells us in Philippians 3:13 that while he has not achieved complete success, "one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead." Reaching forward toward God's call through Christ is the goal, to be in constant communion, to dwell in God’s presence. Paul's words give voice to my efforts, my striving toward the goal, even when I fall short.

LORD, my soul needs constant communion with You. Help me nurture our relationship that I may dwell in Your Presence all the days of my life, to behold Your beauty and to meditate in Your Dwelling Place~dho

Thursday, October 25, 2018

King of the World

Live like you believe God is Sovereign! -dho

                               King Of The World - by Natalie Grant  (link)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Spiritually Satistifed, Healthy Heart

Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with your heart.  Jeremiah 29:12-13 ESV

Christian theologian J.I. Packer writes this about prayer and 
our heart's intentions, "Many of us have no idea how impoverished we are at this level." The knowledge of God or our talents or commitments at church fall short without prayer. Many people claim Jeremiah 29:11 as their favorite verse, but frequently do not look at the verses immediately following. Malnourished and dehydrated, our spiritual poverty claims us, even as we try to learn and serve. As a Christian, prayer becomes spiritual sustenance for a healthy heart.

So often we neglect to focus on the goodness of God, His love and mercy and faithfulness. In lectio divina, divine meditative and spiritual reading of God's Word, both the heart and the mind embrace the love of God. In this process, prayer becomes an opening of the heart which sings gratitude, humbly confesses sin, weeps over lost opportunities, whispers and shouts needs, both simple and desperate. The holiness of God surrounds your awareness, flows into the emptiest of places, quiets the fears, and strengthens the resolve as you welcome His unconditional love. Wordless songs of joy will break free from the chains of worry and doubt, soar above the chaos, dance over the brokenness. God's goodness will overflow into living and cannot be contained. 

As we learn God's "unforced rhythms of grace", the heart finds rest in His goodness, life becomes well-nourished, and Living Water quenches the thirst for more. More than a promise of hope for the future, Scripture reveals a God of splendor and majesty, grace and holiness, love and compassion. God satisfies the "now". Open your heart to  God's infinite, unchanging and sustaining goodness. Listen! He is calling, come and pray to Me with your heart. ~dho

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Finding Meaning In Life

"Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of every person."     Ecclesiastes 12:13 NLT 

The writer of Ecclesiastes is searching for the answer that most all of us desire ~ the meaning of life. For each person, there are particular paths or callings that influence his or her choices of career, family, and community, but I believe this question reaches deeper and, if honesty prevails, becomes a common desire for all people ~ what gives my life meaning? After an exhaustive survey, the researcher in Ecclesiastes reaches a final conclusion, a universal answer to finding meaning in life: Fear God and obey His commands.

In his book, Living the Resurrection, Eugene Peterson gives insight into what demonstrates our truest Christian identity. How does one live the resurrection? He writes, "We embrace and cherish a firsthand, personal life with God and one another." Peterson explains, "We engage in a life that is permeated by the presence and companionship of the resurrected Jesus in the company of friends." The meaning of true life always comes from the Giver of Life. At the core of our being, this personal relationship refines the soul.

What gives my life meaning? It is having a personal, intimate relationship with God and growing that relationship through obedience to His Way. Living the Resurrection gives God glory and allows God's faithful to fully embrace His promise of Everlasting Life. While life will always be full of mystery and unanswered questions, God remains full of majesty and blessings. Remember, worship God, and let your obedience to Him define how living the resurrection is the greatest secret to the meaning of life! ~ dho

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Let the Light Shine Out

Every word You give me is a miracle-word -
how could I help but obey?
Break open Your words, let the light shine out,
let ordinary people see the meaning.
Psalm 119:129-130 The Message

Between the skeptics and unbelievers, questions swirl around Christians. The world constantly queries the Bible and seeks to discredit it on many fronts. Sometimes, even Christians have difficulty explaining God's Living Word. Words from Ray Stedman's The Power of His Presence give a good description of the Old and New Testaments and why both are still relevant.
"The Old Testament is designed to be a picture book, illustrating with fascinating stories the spiritual truths presented in the New Testament... One of the most convincing proofs of the inspiration of the Bible is the facility with which the Spirit of God took simple history - facts as they were lived out day by day - and recorded them in such a way as to weave together a totally accurate pattern of the development of spiritual life. In other words, what took place physically in the Old Testament is a picture for believers today of what takes place spiritually in their own growth in grace." 
The NASB uses these words in Psalm 119:130 ~ The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. When we spend time reading the Living Word, God's promises and spiritual truths are unfolded by the Spirit. Through studying the Scriptures, we begin to understand more about the character of God and His purposes for us. 

Gracious LORD, I come to the altar shouting
praise for all the blessings in my life. You are
the Light that writes the words of my soul-song.
It is You that gives my heart its desires.
Faithful Father, I am God-strong; my blessings
abundantly exceed my needs. Creator, gather
the details of my life, take Your holy threads and
weave a tapestry of Your design. You transcend
all circumstances, expose all evil, reveal all love
but never measure Grace. I am God-strengthened!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Blessed Assurance

“Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as He conversed with us on the road, as He opened up the Scriptures for us?” Luke 24:32 MSG

Scripture tells us about two friends, followers of Jesus, who are leaving Jerusalem on the morning of the Resurrection. Jesus begins to walk along side them, talking and teaching them. They do not recognize Jesus until after He blesses the bread, breaks it, and gives it to them. His presence kindles a fire within their hearts.

Life happens in the hurried and the slow, the random and the sure, the desperate and the joyful moments that fill our days. A pattern begins to form as we gather our experiences and passions, our talents and knowledge in trying to see the big picture. Sometimes we want a solution or need direction; sometimes we just need to rest.

Timothy Keller writes, “Build an identity that gets its significance from God.” Too often we try to connect our life-dots through accomplishments or talent or relationships. We attempt to build our own identities through culture or philosophy. We even claim the behaviors of religion, like confession, forgiveness, baptism, communion, worship, giving, prayer, but do we recognize Jesus as God-within-us? Does the presence of Jesus ignite a spiritual flame within my heart? 

Blessed Assurance
Even before time began, Your beauty danced across the heavens. From the highest peaks to the deepest canyons, from the widest deserts to the strongest rivers. Your glory shines. From forever to forever, Your are Jehovah-Elohim, the Eternal Creator. 

Even before I took my first breath, Your plans for me were known. From the sweetest celebrations to the gravest sorrows, from the abundant blessings to the fiercest challenges, Your love abides. From before to after, forever be my dwelling place. Amen. - dho

Thursday, September 20, 2018

I Am Blessed!

Blessed are the....   Matthew 5:1-12

“Blessed are the...” begins the most familiar verses in the Beatitudes. “Blessed” comes from the Greek word MAKARIOS, a “poetic word” meaning happy or good fortune. Blackaby describes this concept as a “result of divine favor” but goes much further by defining that this kind of good favor comes from a relationship with “God who satisfies our soul and promises future reward.” Such divine favor comes through a relationship with Christ, and is not found elsewhere.

Sometimes reading different versions of the Scripture can give new insights into the meaning.  As I am reading in The Message “You’re blessed” over and over, I begin to contemplate how I am blessed. Certainly the tangible things in life immediately come to mind, like security and shelter, then health comes next, followed by loving relationships. Soon I realize the things that come to mind are all about me! In these verses, Jesus is teaching a “new awareness” or a “new consciousness” about what really brings us happiness.

Blackaby writes that to find happiness requires we “experience the Kingdom’s inner riches, in the midst of external poverty and distress.” WHAT? Reading again in The Message I begin to see phrases that reveal the truths for a disciple of Jesus such as - “less of you - more of God” and “embraced by the One most dear” and “content with who you are”. My favorite is verse 7: "You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being care-full, you find yourselves cared for.” Happiness is being in a relationship with Christ while life happens!

In the article, “An Inside Job...What Really Brings Contentment?” Martin Thielen, pastor in TN, writes, “Extensive studies have proven that external circumstances...account for only 10 percent of a person’s happiness.” He goes on to say, “contentment is an inside job.” This Jesus prescription for happiness is a “divine paradox”. The world will always be in conflict with God’s promises, and Christians must trust God to be both power and presence, even in the darkness of uncertainty. We are “blessed” especially when we find ourselves struggling and grieving, when we lay down self and disappointment, when we experience evil in the world or persecution for our beliefs. In all these times, Christ remains with us, always the comforter, always the encourager, always faithful and true. “To be happy in Jesus” brings more divine favor than I could ever need. -dho

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Every Blessing!

As summer ends, reflect back over our discoveries in Scripture that reassures us with the unlimited possbilities of God. So often, in the quiet joys and little victories we forget that God celebrates with us, creates the joys, and even makes a way for the victories. In the chaos of crisis and the hurriedness of hectic, God walks beside us. We are never alone when we put our faith in God. Take a few minutes to listen to this song "Counting Every Blessing"! - dho

click to listen

Thursday, September 06, 2018

In the Garden - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will. Mark 14:36

Despite dwelling in complete paradise and daily walking with the Creator, Adam and Eve not only encounter temptation but act on this. Disobedience breaks their relationship with God. They are banned from paradise to toil the land. The consequences of sin are born in the garden of Eden.

     I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses;  
     And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses...

On the night Jesus is arrested, He takes His disciples to pray. The deep loneliness reaches through the darkness as Jesus comes before His Father. Jesus recognizes the rebellion of humanity and the gravity of God’s judgement. God’s plan is for Jesus to follow a path of suffering, to take this “cup” of wrath, to endure alienation from God as the ransom for all sin. Perfect Love will submit to God’s will and usher in a renewed relationship with God - “sins forgiven, heaven secured, joy restored, peace.” Knowing the cost of humanity’s sin, Jesus’ willing, unselfish response to an incomparable choice fills the night. Grace is born in the garden of Gethsemane.

     And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own,
     And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.

We fall on our knees before our Father desperate for His healing intervention, His mending touch. With tears and sorrow and loneliness we cry out in our suffering demanding answers. Other times, with joy and hope we shout praises to God for miracles we could only imagine, resolutions greater than our requests, sighs of wonder rise with prayers of celebration. In all these moments we can feel the embrace of God, a God who chooses love and forgiveness and peace. We find Jesus in the garden of a God who can do all things! -dho

We do not trust him because of what we can prove from our circumstances, but from what is revealed about his character at the cross. There we learn that even when circumstances are awful and inexplicable, God will ultimately bring about the good he intends. - Gospel Transformation Notes

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Red-Letter Promise - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

 But Jesus looked at them and said, With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:16-26 

Found in three of the gospels, the “Story of the Rich Young Ruler” reminds us that complete dependence on God opens our hearts to eternal life. The young ruler owns much property, follows the holy commandments, but realizing there is more, asks what he must do to “obtain eternal life”. Jesus tells him that he must sell all his possessions and give them to the poor, then “Come, follow Me”. The young ruler went away sad for he was very wealthy. 

Jesus teaches the disciples that greed can be a “hindrance to embracing the gospel”. False security of wealth can create self reliance, while dependence on God grows faith. At this time, religious culture believes that wealth and success implies God’s favor. In this context, the disciples wonder if the wealthy could not have eternal life, then who? 

A self-reliant person shuns dependency. An intellectual ridicules childlike faith. But salvation is impossible to achieve on our own; it requires a humble cry to God for help. What is impossible for us is possible with God—on His terms. -Blackaby
Truthfully, God does not favor any one person or group of people; all individuals stand equal before Him. Jesus’ words make it clear that salvation is impossible with people - not with good deeds or by following the rules or being a kind person. Only by being willing to give up everything, to lay down one’s own agenda, to give priority to God’s plan will we find ourselves spiritually dependent upon God. Grace is possible only though Christ, the Red-Letter Promise of a God who can do all things! - dho

**Matthew 19:16-26, Mark 10:21-26, Luke 18:24-30. (The Rich Young Ruler)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Beyond My Doubt - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Mark 9:23 NLT

In this scene a father, desperate to find healing for his son, approaches Jesus begging, “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” Jesus almost sounds incredulous in His reply ‘If I can’ then confidently continues, “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Believes? Believes what?

In defining the Greek word believes, faith or trust is understood. Faith in what? Believing faith must be rooted in Christ and the knowledge of an ever-faithful God. We must believe God can do anything, believe He has the power or ability to accomplish any task or influence any outcome. This faith requires a belief that we have all we need in God; any ability or talent or strength comes from God. We must believe that faith itself is a gift from God. 

In the interaction with Jesus, the father cries out, “I do believe and help me overcome my unbelief.” This father needs to believe Jesus can heal his son and wants to believe beyond any doubt. Like us, our definition of faith is sometimes in conflict with our desperate needs. Trusting that God is greater than our difficulties, that He knows our deepest grief or greatest longing, tests our truest beliefs, exposes our smallest doubts. 

This story reinforces God’s power over Satan’s battle for our souls. The struggle is real and never ending this side of heaven. Our knowing - our faith - must be more about who God is  and not about the outcomes. The same struggles with evil continue for us, and our greatest weapons are prayer and faith. Prayer is part of the healing process for us. Faith must believe the Lord will always win the battle because He can do all things. - dho

Thursday, August 16, 2018

How Can This Be? - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

For nothing will be impossible with God. Luke 1:37

Some 1,000 years after the time of David, Scriture takes us to Nazareth and introduces us to Mary. Recorded in the Gospel of Luke, it is possible that Mary herself tells Luke her own story, recalling the angel Gabriel's unexpected visit, the immaulcate conception, the journey to Bethlehem, the birth of the Messiah. Luke's writing reveals God's plan of Grace, divinely designed before time and miraculously conceived in Mary's virgin's womb. Once again, the words nothing will be impossible with God take us to place of immense possibility.

Gabriel delivers God's message to Mary, calling her favored one, describing how she will give birth to a son and name him Jesus. Gabriel says this child, "will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David." Beyond her understanding, Mary asks, "How can this be?" Mary's faithful response echoes throughtout the centuries to follow, "May it be done to me according to Your word." Warren Wiersbe writes, "Mary yielded herself to the Holy Spirit knowing full well that she would experience shame and misunderstanding."
God's purposes for us exceed our abilities and cannot be accomplished apart from Him. However, that is how God works. When He reveals His plans, He is also promising to fulfill them. Trust Him and remember, with God, nothing is impossible! - Blackaby 
We, too, stand in awe of a mighty God whose majesty and mystery confound our abilities to understand. To confess the "mystery of faith" requires a belief that goes beyond proof, requires a faith that cannot adequately explain this truth but lies at the core of Christianity. Christ, born of a virgin, is crucified and dies, but three days later He rises from the grave and returns to sit at the right hand of God. This remains God's never-ending promise of redemption for whomever believes. Like Mary, we wonder, "How can this be?" Perfect Love responds, "Nothing will be impossible with God." Let me reply, "May it be done to me according to Your word! -dho

Thursday, August 09, 2018

God of All My Days - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

In my worry, God You are my stillness
In my searching, God You are my answers
In my blindness, God You are my vision
In my bondage, God You are my freedom
In my weakness, God You are my power

...You're the God of all my days  
- Casting Crowns

Please take a moment to listen to this song that gives voice to the soul's great desires - to find unconditional love, to find joy in difficulty, to find comfort in grief, to find strength in weakness, to find hope in redemption, to find this God who can do all things! - dho

Thursday, August 02, 2018

God’s Purpose - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’. Isaiah 46:9-10

In Isaiah 46-48, we read about the coming fall of Babylon and find exiled Israel worshiping pagan gods. Warren Wiersbe writes, “Isaiah exposes the folly of idols and exalts the greateness of Jehovah.” Isaiah calls for Israel to remember their past, to remember God’s fulfillment of prophecies, miracles of deliverance, and the blessings of provision. To see God’s revelation of His divine power and plan helps the people understand the past and hope for the future.

Yahweh, the one, true and living God, stands in contrast to multiple, non-living idols made by man. These pagan gods crafted of stone or wood, silver or gold cannot control destiny or give comfort as they are “merely a result of human creativity.” The idols and scorchers and astrologers that Israel worships cannot help them. Isaiah reminds them of the trustworthiness of the Lord.

Superior in all ways to the world’s idols, God with His divine power reaches out to each of us. From Genesis to Revelation God reveals His story, His plan for His people, and through the centuries echoes refrain, “there is no one like Me.” Any person can receive this gift of righteousness through faith in Christ whose abundant grace overflows. Unexpected and unmatched, Christ is God’s indescribable gift to us. Endless hallelujahs to my God who can do all things, especially the things I find impossible to accomplish or even imagine. -dho

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Nothing Too Extraordinary - God Can Do All Things Summer Series

Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17

Jeremiah’s prayer, Jeremiah 32:16-25, expresses a desire for the assurance of God’s will while acknowledging His righteousness. For Jerusalem, this is a time of despair and doubt, a time of war and weariness; yet, the people’s rebellion toward God persists. Jeremiah focuses on God’s majesty and mystery as Creator, Judge, and Redeemer. Despite rebellion, God continues to embrace His people promising, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

About a year before the fall of Jerusalem, God tells the prophet Jeremiah to “buy a field” even though the land will soon be completely seized by the Babylonians. As God allows the city of Jerusalem to be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylonia, the people continue their idolatry, giving offerings and worshiping false gods. Through fire and disease, famine and poverty, the buying of the field in this land becomes an “expression of confidence of a loving God’s promise of redemption.”

We are helpless to save ourselves. Regardless of a sometimes desperate desire to understand, we will not always have answers to our questions or doubts. Faith requires keeping our trust in the sovereignty of God, in the certainty of His everlasting love for us. After Jeremiah prays, God reassures with His rhetorical reply, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything to difficult for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27) We, also, find our Blessed Assurance in this God who finds nothing too extraordinary! -dho

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Too Great and Too Marvelous - God Who Can Do All Things Summer Series

Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.

 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.
 O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore.
     Psalm 131 - ESV

This psalm of David, part of the Songs of Ascents, describes a “calm and quieted soul” of one who trusts in God. The Songs of Ascents, Psalms 120-134, are pilgrim songs for those who travelled up to Jerusalem to worship for the required Jewish feasts. The message of this short song is to find contentment and hope in God while not being overly concerned with trying to understand all the ways of God who can do all things.

David voices the same conclusion that Job and Abraham discover about God, “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too wonderful for me.” God’s plan and provision reveal extraordinary and marvelous opportunities and offerings that we often cannot understand. With humility and childlike trust, we must allow our “measured and modest” souls to find immutable hope in the majesty and mystery of God. Contentment is simply to find satisfaction in the presence of the Lord. -dho