Thursday, January 26, 2023

Becoming What You Worship - Part 2

Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly.

As we continue our exploration of worship using Psalm 111, the first verse is an invitation to offer praise to God for His great works and character. “Worship is more than a private experience; it is a public and corporate expression of devotion.” The NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible goes on to include that this “corporate praise” in a “crowd or assembly” is an call to praise God, an opportunity to be thankful. 

In this one verse, two names of God are used, first, Yahweh and secondly, Jehovah. The Bible uses many names for God, all describing different aspects of His character. These two names are what most scholars call the proper names of God, indicating His presence and accessibility. They are often interchanged with each other but are used over 6,000 times in the OT.

The Message reads, “Hallelujah! I give thanks to GOD with everything I’ve got — wherever good people gather and in the congregation.” A hymn of praise “often begins, and sometimes ends, with Hallelujah.” The Apologetics Study Bible continues, to praise or celebrate is our “proper response to all that God has done.” Called to trust and obey and worship God, we offer our praise for His matchless goodness.

One of the most interesting parts of this verse is to praise with all my heart. In OT times, the heart is thought of as all of the inner person - the mind and will and head. When I read to give thanks to GOD with everything I’ve got, it gives me pause. Sometimes I worship with my congregation, and sometimes alone. Other times, I worship with my offerings, offerings of money, of service, of time. When I study God’s Word, I worship His offerings to me - offerings of forgiveness, of grace, of eternal life. In times of crisis, my faith worships a God who is full of goodness to diminish the doubts and anxieties of uncertainty. Corporately and privately, I pray “Your will be done” and how hard that can be when it is not my will. 

Lord, for all You have done, all You have created, healed, mended, renewed, encouraged -HALLELUJAH! with my whole being! Lord, for all the times You wept beside me, embraced my pain, listened to my hurting soul, I offer my worship - HALLELUJAH! with my whole being! Lord - You continue to guide me with whispers… and shouts! Together, wherever good people gather, we will worship You! HALLELUJAH! with our whole beings! -dho 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Becoming What You Worship - Part 1

Read: Psalm 111

For the next few weeks let’s look at Psalm 111, the Scripture reference in last week’s post. The background to this Psalm gives us insight into its writing. Commentaries describe it as an “acrostic” poem; written originally in Hebrew, each line starts with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. As we read it in English, we miss this poetic nature. The theme of Psalm 111 is the goodness of God, and we can see this goodness in His great wonders and works!

Great are the works of the LORD; they are studied by all who delight in them.

Sometimes we are afraid of what we don’t understand, of things we can’t explain, but the wonders of God exceed all of this. Our words seem inadequate to describe these creations of God, these mysteries of the universe. The psalm goes on to use words like “splendid” and “majestic” as offerings to characterize the indescribable, the stars and planets, the heavens and the earth, space and gravity, the human body and an individual cell. All of these have been studied, with new and amazing observations still being discovered. Standing at the ocean shore at sunset, we find ourselves wordless as the beauty of the setting and the wonder of the tides whisper glory to our souls. God holds us with grace and love. The mysteries of God delight our curiosities, stir our hearts to seek more of Him.

According to the Moody Bible Commentary, this psalm, both a wisdom psalm and a praise psalm, we have our “essential motivation for all worship”. Worship is an expression of love or reverence for something, and in Christianity, the focus of our worship is God! His majesty and enduring righteousness, the provisions for and redemption of His people, the purity of truth and justice in His actions, and His immense blessings are reasons to worship God.

His miracles are His memorial — This GOD of Grace, this GOD of Love. (Vs 4, MSG)

God’s wonders cause my soul to bow in worship. God’s miracles bring shouts and applause! What an amazing, holy God! And that He chooses me to be part of His Kingdom… mystery for sure! The beautiful hymn, Worthy of Worship, comes to mind, each verse so perfectly written. The chorus uses some of the names we call God - Father, Creator, Savior, Sustainer. Truly, God, You are worthy and wonderful, worthy of worship and praise! - dho

* “Worthy of Worship” is written by Mark Blankenship, Terry W. York, 1988

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Thoughts on a New Year

 Hallelujah! I give thanks to GOD with everything I've got - Whenever good people gather, and in the congregation. GOD's works are so great, worth a lifetime of study - endless enjoyement! Splendor and majesty mark His craft; His generosity never gives out. His miracles are His memorial - The GOD of Grace, this GOD of Love. 

Psalm 111:1-4 The Message

In a television commercial, a child incorrectly says the familiar phrase New Year's Resolution as New Year's 'Revolution'! While quite humorous, it is not so far off the mark. According to the dictionary, revolution can be defined as a sudden, complete or marked change in something. Grace is like a revolution. When Grace is invited, it comes suddenly, completely and markedly changes us for ever! Perhaps what most of us really need is a spiritual revolution this new year! Maybe this is the year to reach new depths of intimacy with Christ. Maybe this is the year to fully commit to living for Jesus, to living like Jesus. 

As this new year begins, completely commit to something that will encourage your spiritual growth, some activity that will deepen your relationship with Christ. Maybe this is the year to join a Bible Study group, volunteer to teach a Sunday School Class, lead a prayer team, go on a mission trip, or become part of a faith project in your own church or community. Often these require one to step outside the familiar, outside a comfort zone. Listen! What is God calling you to do that will markedly change you forever?

Personal spiritual growth can involve setting a daily devotional time, reading the Bible and praying. There are many books and online options. You can choose a Bible verse that will inspire and help direct your spiritual journey for the year. Simply get out your Bible and pray for God to lead you to a specific verse to grow you. Claim it! Memorize it! Post it! Share it! Study it! Or, maybe you need a word for the year - just one word- that will help you focus on Christ, discern His will, encourage your heart, and bring you peace. If you are into social media, one recent suggestion I read is to choose several of your Facebook friends and pray for them, chooisng new ones each week or so. Tell them you are praying for them, asking if they have specific needs. LISTEN! PRAY! STUDY! God will help you discover His unique path for you this year. 

Whether you make New Year's resolutions or not, I believe God is always calling us to greater spiritual growth. Any moment, unexpected circumstances cause sudden, complete or marked change. Will you be ready spiritually for such a life-revolution? Will you know how to find comfort in God's Holy Word? Will you be prepared to pray for others in crisis? Will you be able to share God's word with someone in need? Spending time with God - praying, studying, and listening - prepares us to help others, provides us with words to reassure, comfort, and encourage another. Consistently seeking God's Presence grows deep spiritual roots of faith and trust, of love and hope in Christ. This GOD of Grace, this GOD of Love...His Hallelujah lasts forever! ~dho

Consider this:
- READ Psalm 111
- Journal your thoughts

Thursday, January 05, 2023

What Will You Choose for 2023?

As I think about 2023, a new year, a fresh start, another new beginning, I wonder what will I choose? There are infinite possibilities of tasks or deeds, books to read, people to spend time with, places to visit. And so many words to consider, to define, to understand, to believe or question, to savor, to share. What I choose to do or what I choose not to do makes a mark in time, influences or hinders, comforts or grieves, encourages or diminishes. 

What will I choose? Within the margins of study and prayer, service and sharing of knowledge or inspiration stand a multitude of good options. All the while, outside the margins, the world teases and taunts without concern for wisdom or discernment, with self-serving quests carrying banners that falsely promise freedom or love or security. At times, the lines between the margins blur. 

If we are honest, we all live between the margins. Unpredictability and uncertainty are always present and probable. Hopes and failures, joys and sorrows, questions and answers, living and dying, all these contrary realities walking together become the paradox of life. On the night that Jesus is arrested, He tells His chosen disciples that they are about to desert Him, scatter to their own homes, and abandon Him. Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Peace within the tribulation; living between the margins.

Most of life is not neat and tidy, folded, organized, or indexed. If we only choose to stay within the careful margins, or “scatter to our own homes” for safety, we will miss the places that need us most. There is a song lyric that says, “break my heart, Lord, for what breaks Yours.” These places are always outside the margins, in places of uncertainty, in the depths of loneliness, in the poverty of brokenness. We when choose to cross these margins, we wade into those promises of difficulties in this world, but we also rest in the promises of His peace. The Message uses the words “you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace.”

Jesus calls us to “take courage” as we travel the unpredictable and uncertain journeys of this crazy world. Our faith and obedience to God’s voice becomes the only true yet intangible guide. Only God is immutable, our abiding constant who navigates and provides and sustains us. What will I choose? I choose the paradox of life, peace in the tribulations. I choose to live between the margins with Jesus, faithful and true! - dho 

Thursday, December 22, 2022

4th Week of Advent - Anticipation

Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, You are very great;
You are clothed with splendor and majesty.
Psalm 104:1 NASB

In ancient Roman times, emblems of evergreens mean peace and joy and victory, while early Christians use these symbols to reflect that "Christ had entered the home." Now days, decorations of evergreen branches trim porches, mantles, and banisters; evergreen wreaths hang on windows, over fireplaces, outside doors. While these symbols reflect the celebration of the Advent season, this time of longing for the Messiah, the evergreens give continuous, unspoken reminders of God's endless mercy, everlasting life, eternal Hope. Since the first sin of mankind, throughout thousands of years, century after century, darkness waits for redemption, waits for the light that only Christ can reveal. Jesus' birth, rich with prophecy and promise, only unfolds part of God's Grace story. There is more, much more! This forgiven heart eagerly anticipates the conclusion of His story, the Second Advent of Christ, when Faithful and True returns for me. 

At Jesus' birth, Mary wraps Him in cloths and lays Him in a manger because there was not room for them in the inn. After Jesus' death, with permission from Pilate, a man called Joseph of Arimathea takes the body of Jesus from the cross and wraps it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. Coming from a virgin womb and wrapped in cloths, Immanuel becomes grace to harsh world, and when the cruelty of the people crucified Him, the Lamb of God, wrapped in linen cloths, lay in a virgin tomb. Politics and power, greed and guilt, denial and death will never define the immutable life of Jesus; instead, the Messiah's victory over death and promise to return for His people enlarge God's never-ending story of Grace. The promise of Christ's Second Advent fills the mind seeking wonder and hope, stills the heart living grief and fear, and thrills the soul knowing grace and peace. Earthly wrappings can never tell the whole story of Advent! 

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, 
and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, ... 
He is clothed with robe dipped in blood, 
and His names is called The Word of God... 
And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, 
Revelation 19:11-16 NASB

Clothed with splendor and majesty, Christ will come again. Surrounded by angels, His glory will illumine space; there will be no more darkness. LORD OF LORDS, the title declaring Him Lord over all, reigns forever. Jesus Christ - the Light of the World, the Messiah, KING OF KINGS - now waits in Heaven until the holy appointed time. Jesus waits for us to call on His name, waits for us to cry out in need, waits for us to share His Love, waits for us to speak His name. Listen! Every day the Word of God quills the story of everlasting peace and unfailing grace. Believe! Every day find Immanuel, God with us. Wait! Anticipate Advent every moment of your everyday. THIS is the Christmas Story! -dho

*previously posted on this blog December 2013

Thursday, December 15, 2022

3rd Week of Advent - Celebration

When I discovered Your words, I devoured them.
They are my joy and my heart's delight,
for I bear Your name. Jeremiah 15:16

This 3rd Sunday in the Advent season sometimes is called "Gaudete Sunday" from the Latin meaning "rejoice". Others call this candle "joy", which is sometimes pink. Joy-full celebrations in the Christmas story show angels singing of great joy, shepherds telling with holy awe, wise men worshiping in humble adoration. The expectant waiting in Advent leads us to celebrate Christ as the Messiah, to seek Christ more every day, to know Jesus as our source of joy.

In Philippians 4:4, Paul reminds, "Rejoice in The Lord always, again, I will say rejoice!" The world continually bombards us with crisis and chaos, disappointment and doubt, fear and fatigue. The contrast between Paul's words and our realities appear to clash. How can we rejoice when difficult circumstances prevail, when constant hardship lingers? God's word provides His wisdom, reveals His promises, offers His hope. Reading and studying the Bible teaches us how to pray, who to love, and where to serve. We can only find real joy in Jesus.

In the Nativity, Hope comes quietly, Love comes small, Joy comes gently, but with the Crucifixion, Hope faints, Love chooses, and Joy weeps. These two events cannot be separated, the sweet and the bittersweet. The emotions born with Jesus' coming crash into the harsh realities of the cross; the Messiah comes because the world needs Grace. With His Resurrection, Hope shouts, Love lives, and Joy reigns! Through Grace, Christ brings us abundant joy. God's word instructs us, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you." [Colossians 3:16] Discover and devour God's word. Then, and only then, can we Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in Him. -dho

*previously posted on this blog December 2013

Thursday, December 08, 2022

2nd Week of Advent - Incarnation

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, 
and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, 
full of grace and truth.

The season of Advent, meaning "to come," finds us waiting to celebrate - once again - the arrival of the baby Jesus on Christmas. This promise of the Messiah spans generations, but when He does arrive, the first Advent, it changes everything. Tender manger scenes contrast the glorious angels singing. From the moment Truth enters human history, the story celebrated becomes Jesus loving us with compassion and tenderness while all of heaven celebrates Perfect Love. We light the second candle to celebrate with all of heaven that salvation for mankind comes into the world, comes for us. From before time until time to come, God envelops us with love.

Incarnation describes God's glory dwelling with His people. In the Old Testament, God's Glory, His shekinah, represents His presence in the tabernacle. John introduces Jesus as the Word that becomes flesh and dwells with the people. He is both holy and human, infinite and incarnate. Jesus manifests God's Glory on earth and desires an everlasting relationship with us. Grace comes through Jesus Christ, chooses us, calls us, completes us. 

Throughout this week, let your spiritual celebration retrace the Incarnation. When Jesus becomes human and makes His home among us, remember the Bethlehem crowds leave no room for Jesus. After all those years of waiting for the Messiah, into the hurried, overflowing, populous Bethlehem, Grace simply comes. Today's world is no less hectic, occupied or crammed with busy. Does your life leave room for Jesus? Have you found Jesus in your Bethlehem? Know the unmeasured Grace and faithfulness of Perfect Love when you invite Jesus to dwell in your tabernacle. It changes everything! Love! ~dho

*previously posted on this blog December 2013

Thursday, December 01, 2022

1st Week of Advent - Expectation

For to us a Child is born,
to us a Son is given;
and the government shall be upon His shoulder,
and His name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Advent offers us time to refocus on the promise, birth, redemption, and return of Christ. The Christmas season brings lights and gifts, love and joy; it retells the stories of prophets and angels, shepherds and magi, Mary and Jesus. All the wonders of Christmas open our imaginations to promises and possibilities. From before time until time to come, God embraces us with hope.

During Advent, we light four candles, one each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Some say they symbolize the four centuries of waiting, of silence between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ. Some name them hope, love, joy, and peace, while others remember prophets, Bethlehem, shepherds, and angels. What we call them is not so important. How we spend these four weeks IS! This journey of spiritual celebration begins with understanding God's infinite love and His desire for each one to experience everlasting life.

This week celebrate expectation as you consider God's magnificent plan to bring reconciliation to His people. After God creates mankind, the history of rebellion begins. From the beginning, God recognizes the spiritual needs of people and promises Jesus. Prophets foretell of His coming throughout the Old Testament. In the New Testament, John the Baptist fulfills OT prophecy and introduces Jesus.  Remember the thousands of years of endings and new beginnings, the thousands of years of waiting, the thousands of years of hope. Begin today, to seek the possibilities of God, to see endings as opportunities for God to bring new beginnings. Hope! ~ dho

*previously posted on this blog December 2013