Thursday, June 01, 2023

Irish Thoughts

 “Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sands, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity.”  Oscar Wilde

This is Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. With a rich history dating back to Medieval times and Anglican worship traditions, its multiple, beautiful stain glass windows give the soul pause. The artistry of carved wooden choir rows and and an enormous pipe organ above the choir, with someone actually playing live organ music, test the imagination. Handel first performed his masterful composition of “Handel’s Messiah” right where I stood. Catacombs and stories, magnificent tapestries and historical documents like a copy of the Magna Carta fill all the corners. Such a beautiful place of worship. How many prayers have been lifted and how much Scripture has been read and who could begin to count the incalculable music notes played, all stand in reverence without answers. To God be the Glory! This beautiful place touched my soul! -dho

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Preparing for Pentecost - Part 3

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a noise like a strong, blowing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw something like flames of fire that were separated and stood over each person there.  They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak different languages by the power the Holy Spirit was giving them.” Acts 2:1-4 NCV

On April 9th this year, we celebrated Easter. After this, we often just go about our days participating in the end of school events and recitals, with preparations for summer trips and Vacation Bible School. This Sunday, May 28th, is Pentecost Sunday, the day most liturgical Christian churches celebrate of the Holy Spirit coming to be with those who follow Jesus. 

Jewish history recounts that the curtains in the Temple that separate the Most Holy Place would sometimes move and describes this phenomenon as Rauch HaKodesh, a Hebrew phrase meaning “Breath of the Holies”. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people understand the Holy Spirit to be God’s influence over humanity and the universe. In Psalm 51:11 David pleads with God, “Do not banish me from Your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.” God always desires to dwell in the presence of His people.

After Jesus ascends back to heaven, as promised, the Holy Spirit descends to His followers. The Holy Spirit is the Helper, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth. Now, Jesus sits at the right hand of God, and the Holy Spirit becomes God’s Presence with us. 

Holy Spirit, come alongside of me and breathe holy life into my thoughts, my purpose, my service. In You I know the presence of the Lord. Holy Wind, embrace me, encourage me, empower me. Count me alive in Christ. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me

** Pentecost Sunday is May 28, 2023

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Preparing for Pentecost - Part 2

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. Acts 2:1-4 

Many people crowd Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish "Festival of First Fruits" which is 50 days after Passover. The Ten Commandments had been given to Moses 50 days after they had crossed the Red Sea; escaping Egyptian captivity established Passover. The city is 
full of "Jews from every nation", and as they hear this sound of "a violent wind", the masses of people seem confused because each one hears "their own language being spoken". Amazed and bewildered, we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own languages. 

As promised, the Holy Spirit fills them, flows over them, and they burn with passion for God. Peter explains the prophecy from Isaiah, "I will pour out my Spirit on all people." (Isaiah 44:3) He goes on the tell the Gospel Story of Jesus, Son of God, Messiah for all people. He tells the Greatest Story in history for a broken people, defines a New Covenant to a covenant people, reaches across generations of faith, crosses boundaries of laws. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit to God's people renews His desire to dwell with His people. This fulfillment of God's Promise begins a new era of faith.

You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (Hebrews 12:22). This New Covenant blesses God's people with grace, something the law could never do. The Helper, the Advocate, the Comforter, the Counselor, the Intercessor, the Spirit of Truth - the Holy Spirit comes from the Father and now testifies about Christ. Hundreds of years before, God had revealed himself to the Israelites, writing the Ten Commandments on stone tablets with His own finger, and now at this Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus's resurrection, God writes on the hearts of Believers with the Holy Spirit. From the birth of a nation to the birth of the church, God's redemptive plan is for them, their children, for us, our children, for all! On that day in Jerusalem, about 3,000 believed. - dho

**Pentecost is May 28th this year!

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Preparing for Pentecost - Part 1

You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God. John 3:8 (The Message)

Holy Wind

A mighty gust, some gentle breezes,
Either blows wherever it pleases.
In silence passing, roaring through,
Hidden still, this Wind chooses you,

From south to north or west to east,
From weak to strong or more to least,
Invisible, with power to
Break and mend, this Wind comes to you.

Quietly with intense yearning,
The Wind flames a fire burning
Within the soul, consuming dross
That calls repentance to the cross.

From south to north or west to east,
From weak to strong or more to least,
This Perfect Love endures each nail
Which reconciles and rends the veil.

Infinitely bolder than deep,
Broader than wide, higher than steep,
Holy Wind, hold each empty place,
Mend my soul with marvelous Grace.

Spirit of God,
Despite my sin - resume the call – define my heart!
Delight my mind – assume my sin – design my life!
Ignite the fire - consume the dross - refine my soul!
Invisible and Indescribable and Invincible! Take me now!

* This year Pentecost is Sunday May 28th.

Thursday, May 04, 2023

His Presence

 Find His Presence

Hear the loon's mournful call in the distance,
Feel the hawk's graceful, slow dance with the wind,

Remember the night sky's luminaries

As they fade when another morning speaks,

And find His presence.

Hear thunder's rumbling call, 
Storm Approaching!
Feel wind's royal power command respect.

Recall the warning; listen to the wind

As darkness struggles to control and shout,

And find His presence.

Hear whispers in the night as angels sing,

Feel holy kisses as His angels pass,

Remember sweet songs of comfort and peace

As mercy makes a home within the soul,

And find His presence.

Hear gentle words offered without reason,

Feel the rhythm of glory-words that praise,

Recall holy words written on the heart

As the Living Word restores hope's voice,

And find His presence.

Hear the empty silence of loneliness,

Feel the wordless sighs of unspoken prayer,

Remember the promise of Perfect Love

As holiness seeks ordinary time,

And find His presence.

Hear the Holy Spirit summon,
Be still
Feel the solitude embrace calm's repose,

Recall the mystery and the majesty

As Grace falls softly and shelters the soul,

And find His presence.  

~ dho

Thursday, April 27, 2023

New Beginnings!

Oh, visit the earth, 
ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
fill the God-River with living water…
scatter rose petals down Your paths,
All through the wild meadows.
Set the hills to dancing…
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
Oh, oh, let them sing!
Psalm 65: 9, 12-13 (The Message)

As the season of new beginnings calls to us in the splendor of His Glory, may our thoughts take notes on the wonders of the Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer, Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser... Dawn and dusk take turns calling, "Come and worship."
Psalm 65:8 The Message

God, mark us with grace and blessing!
Psalm 67:1 The Message


Thursday, April 20, 2023

Perfect Love - the Power to Change the World

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16-17

Coast in South Africa/photo by Allison Oswalt

From prison in Rome, Paul writes to the church in Colosse, a young congregation likely not more than five to six years old. The conflicts then in Colosse are the same here today. Humanity's rules and customs and lack of religious beliefs clash with the true gospel message of grace through Jesus Christ. The endless sources of media flood our minds and home daily with excuses to ignore God's message, with rhetoric to diminish God, with threats to marginalize Christianity. Paul's words that Christ is "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15) exceeds logic and scientific explanation. Although we are not imprisioned in Rome, we find ourselves surrounded by darkness that desires to take us captive

Instead of constantly engaging in verbal retaliation of what's wrong with the world's message, maybe the better approach would be to simply share the majesty and wonder of our God. By allowing the Gospel message to thrive in our lives, we become living testimonies of God's love and compassion, of Christ's humility and grace to those within our spheres of influence. Deep faith, especially in crsis, reveals the magnitude and power of God. Lives full with hope, even in times of difficulty, speak loudly of the God who dwells in us. An attitude of love toward others, whether we agree or disagree, becomes the righteous fruit of worshiping a holy and sovereign God. 

In his letters, Paul frequently utilizes the themes of faith, hope, and love distinguishing them as "gifts from God". He writes, "Above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection." (Colossians 3:14 NKJV) David Jeremiah calls this bond with Perfect Love the "power to change the world." Love within this bond of perfection becomes the living, true Gospel. - dho

*previously published on this blog/part of the “Living the Gospel Series”/dho/2017

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Easter 2023 - Go!

More surely than ever before, I know now that we are called to give our very lives to one another and that, in so doing, we become a true community of love. Henri Nouwen from Life of the Beloved (pg. 115)

The True Vine, Andrew Murray writes of Christ's joy: His joy is nothing but the joy of love, of being loved and of loving. It was the joy of receiving His Father's love and abiding in it, and then the joy of passing on that love and pouring it out on sinners. Christ is Perfect Love offered to imperfect people. Like His disciples and His closest followers, we are imperfect people yet perfectly loved by Jesus.

Read John 20:19-23 (for the complete story of the resurrection, see John 20-21.)

As He spoke, He held out His hands for them to see, and He showed them His side. They were filled with joy when they saw their Lord! He spoke to them again and said, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.
John 20:20-21 NLT

On Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection, Jesus appears to several people, each Gospel giving a similar but varying account of all those who witnessed the risen Savior. John writes of Jesus coming in the evening to the disciples who are meeting behind locked doors fearing the Jewish leaders. Jesus offers them peace and joy; He reminds them this assurance comes from the Father. He breathes the Holy Spirit into them. They are prepared to take the Good News of redemption and reconciliation into the world. The root of Christ's joy is the Father's love.

Jesus gives us the same command today, saying as the Father has sent Me, so send I you. We are to carry the Good News of His amazing grace into the world. We are to build up the community of faith by sharing His love. Christ prepares us with His peace and affirms us with His joy. After Christ returned to Heaven at Pentecost, the Spirit came to dwell within the hearts of all believers. The sure foundation of our joy is Christ ~ Perfect Love.

consider this!

  • Imagine being in the room with the disciples when Jesus "suddenly" appears. Describe their joy!
  • How does Jesus model the task of sharing the Gospel?
  • Have you experienced the resurrected Jesus? How will you share such Perfect Love?

Blessed Assurance ~ You are Eternal Love! I am overwhelmed that the love of the Father and the grace of the Son and the presence of the Spirit are mine! You choose me and love me and send me to be a witness for You. Your unfailing faithfulness and enduring love prepare my heart with peace and joy! You empower me to tell my faith-story. With the joy of Christ, I go! Amen. ~dho

*previously published on this blog/dho/2009