Thursday, June 04, 2020

True Idenity

Oh LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me... For You forged my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well...     Psalm 139

Identity marks us, affirms us, singles us out, gives specific details about us. We have many pieces of paper that identify us like driver's license, Social Security number, health insurance cards, military identification, work badges, car registrations, credit cards, business cards; we have official certificates that verify birth, marriage, divorce, and death. We use pictures and numbers and computer chips to create our identity, to track our likes, activity, timeliness, finances, and even our animals. Yet, with all that information floating around, we are "prone to wander" and feel lost.

Despite our vanity and ego-centric nature, humanity is both fragile and broken. Etched deep within our DNA the need to believe in a greater power exists, even if we try deny this. Psalm 139 never gets old. Take a few minutes and read the complete text. Woven into being, created in the likeness of God, intimately known by Him barely begin to describe you and me in Christ. 

"Often in quiet meditation and reflection we discover that we are more than our individual selves and come to realize who we really are. We slowly learn to see, within our very own hearts, the reflection of the One who breathed life into us...who loved us before we were born and before we could love ourselves...We are defined by something deeper and wider..."                    Henri Nouwen, Discernment
God breathes life into our souls, reflects the essence of love, offers each of us grace. He surrounds us, protects us, nourishes us. Without God, our identity is just letters and numbers. Nouwen says, "Our true identity is found in God, who created us in the divine image. We are bearers of God's image and spirit." So, whose are you? Do the people you meet every day know your "real identity" or is that a secret? ~dho

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Beyond Understanding

MAY is National Brain Tumor Awareness month! Celebrating my nephew, Thomas! July 2011, he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, sent immediately to Duke Children's hospital, underwent surgery and weeks of radiation treatments. Eight years later, Thomas remains cancer free! He is an Eagle Scout, 2020 High School Honor graduate, and will attend college this fall. To God be the glory! Go GRAY in MAY!       

To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, or object of our faith – 
the Lord Jesus Christ.
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1Corinthians 1:9 NKJV

God is sovereign, all-powerful! This attribute of God’s character escapes our full understanding but becomes the truth a faithful follower accepts. Our loyalty to Christ reveals itself by our faith in God. When things fall apart, when circumstances become difficult, when we can no longer see God’s purpose – we have a tendency to doubt, blame, and criticize. This eroding of personal faith affects our spiritual health and witness. Our faith must stay grounded in the faithfulness of God, not in our ability to understand the situation.

In our faithfulness to God, perseverance must continue, as well as loyal devotion with Christ as the “object of our faith”. Especially when we do not comprehend, trusting in a faithful God brings the soul true hope and provides rest in fellowship with Christ. On this journey there are many unexpected roads that lead to despair, wind through darkness, or pass over mountains, and God always goes before us. Our continued faithfulness in God “in every circumstance” finds its greatest purpose in allowing God to work through us.

El Shaddai, Lord God Almighty – renew Your gift of my faith. Reach through me to others that need to know of Your power. Let my story be: Great is Your faithfulness to me, in every situation. –dho

Focus Point: Our faith must stay grounded in the faithfulness of God, not in our ability to understand the situation.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Shout Hosanna!

. . . the large crowd . . . heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, [and with] branches of the palm trees, went out to meet Him and began to shout, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD. John 12:12-13 NASB

Hosanna, an expression of joy and praise for deliverance granted or anticipated, is the crowd's chant as Jesus rides into Jerusalem. Hosanna is the word that means "Praise God and His Messiah, we are saved." The Disciples and other followers still think that the Messiah will be an earthly king; the week's events will soon reveal their confusion. If we had been standing along side of the road, waving our palm branches, shouting Hosanna!, where would we have been standing by the week's end?

Even believers, the very ones of us who profess the truths about Christ, discover places that merge with doubt and confusion. We find our prayers answered in ways that differ from our hopes. We meet circumstances face to face and waiver. We keep seeking more from the world but really are needing more of the Messiah. 

Make sure you don't take things for granted and go slack in the working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in the acts of worship - a different kind of "sacrifice" - that takes place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.Hebrews 13:15-16 The Message
Our sacrifice of praise ~
When we stand along side of the road today, as everyday people pass our way, let's shout Hosanna! and mean it! ~dho

Thursday, May 14, 2020

True Light

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took His garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also His tunic. But the tunic was seamless woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be." This was to fulfill the Scripture [Ps.22:18] . . . John 19:23-24 ESV

Rev. David Carroll, the pastor at St. Matthew's UMC in Madison, MS, preached a sermon on "The Tunic and Dice" and used this phrase in describing the soldiers . . . and us when we choose the world's view of indifference instead of turning our eyes to Jesus, the crucified and risen Savior: "The soldiers were . . . trading the True for the trivial." We gamble and barter with other's hearts every day, ignoring need and remaining self-focused. Let's go beyond the trivial and seek the True Light!

Our sacrifice of praise ~
Let your daily witness to the world be one that trades the trivial things of this world for Jesus - the True! ~ dho 

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Give Glory to the Father

When Jesus had spoken these things, He lifted His eyes to heaven and said, Father, the hour has come. Glorify and exalt and honor and magnify Your Son, so that Your Son may glorify and extol and honor and magnify You. John 17:1 Amplified Bible

The 17th Chapter of John is a well-known prayer that Jesus prayed before His crucifixion. Many times in the New Testament we are given examples of Jesus praying, examples He set for us, teaching us how to communicate with God. If Jesus needed to spend time in prayer, certainly we have an even greater need. E.M. Bounds wrote these words in his book on "Prayer":

What mystery that the Son of God should be under the law of prayer . . . How strange that the blessings that came to Him were impregnated and purchased by prayer.

Our sacrifice of praise ~
Like Jesus, pray that your life gives glory and honor to the Father. ~dho 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Worthy Thoughts

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise... then the peace of God will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9 NLT

We are constantly surrounded by the opposite of what the Scripture calls us to keep in our minds. The world is full thoughts that are false and reckless, thoughts against God and tainted, ugly and lacking merit. There are so many unworthy ideas and activities that catch our attention or capture our time. Chaos thrives in these things ~ not peace. You will not find God in these places ~ unless He is reaching through for a lost soul. Even then, He is far above the ugly and dark; He is Beauty and Light. God is peace.

The commentary of the Transformation Study Bible offers these thoughts:
The Christian who fills his heart and mind with God's Word will have a "built-in radar" for detecting wrong thoughts. . . Right thinking is the result of daily meditation on the Word of God. (Philippians 4:8 commentary)

Our sacrifice of praise ~
Whatever is worthy of praise, meditate on these thoughts of Beauty and Light. ~ dho 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Be My Vision

“Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart . . . 
Thou my best thought by day or by night
 Waking or sleeping Thy presence my light
 Be thou my wisdom and Thou my true word
 I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord . . .
 Heart of my own heart whatever befall
 Still be my vision O Ruler of all”

"Be Thou My Vision" is a hymn that has its roots in Ireland. Written in the 8th century as an Irish poem, it was translated in the early 1900's and later put to music. In Hosea, God is reminding Israel who He is:
It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes your fruit. Hosea 14:8 NASB
God is where we are to look for our best thoughts, our wisdom; His presence is with us. What comfort to know that whatever happens we can find God's Vision. Heart of my own heart whatever befall, still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

The Message translates the Hosea verse: Everything you need is to be found in Me.

Our sacrifice of praise ~
My "best thoughts" will reflect God's wisdom if He is the "Lord of my heart". Let God be our Vision in this world of darkness. ~dho

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Dependence on God

So those now who live by faith are blessed along with Abraham, who lived by faith - this is no new doctrine! And that means that anyone who tries to live by his own effort, independent of God, is doomed to failure. Galatians 3:9-10 The Message

"The nearer Abraham came to God in his intercession the more he recognized his entire unworthiness; 'Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord.' Genuine unworthiness is never shy before God any more than a child is shy before his mother. A child of God is conscious only of his entire dependence upon God." from Not Knowing Where by Oswald Chambers

The Thesaurus gives these synonyms for dependence: trust, reliance, confidence, faith. As a child of God, we must acknowledge our entire dependence upon God. This requires that we trust God with all the circumstances of life. Finding confidence in His Power and relying on His Promises demonstrate our faith, our dependence on God.

Our sacrifice of praise ~
Contemplate a time when you did not demonstrate complete dependence on God. What more does God have to do to gain your trust? ~dho

Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday - Ransom - Lent 2020

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Hebrews 13:15 During this season of reflection and renewal (Lent February 26 - April 12), join me as we examine what "sacrifice of praise" means and how this should and can be our offering to God. What is your sacrifice of praise? – dho

Good Friday
Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, "Truly the Man was the Son of God!"
Mark 15:38 NKJV

Today we must look to the cross of suffering that Jesus endured as a ransom for our sin. Until that day, the Jewish people, the Chosen of God, worshiped Jehovah with blood sacrifices and burnt offerings. At the time Jesus breathed His last breath and died, the High Priest sacrificed the unblemished lamb, preparing the sin offering of Passover. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies to place the blood offering on the Mercy seat for forgiveness of sins.

On this day, when Jesus died, the curtain of the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. The Scriptures do not say what happened to the High Priest or the blood of the slain Passover lamb. We are not told the thoughts of the High Priest who witnessed the torn curtain that represented a veil between sinful man and the Holy God. Until this moment in history, the High Priest would have taken the blood sacrifice into the Holy of Holies as an offering for the forgiveness of sins for God's people every year at Passover, but now, the altar of the Lord was exposed.

These historic religious customs tell the God-story of Jesus, a Perfect Lamb slain for the forgiveness of sin. The once veiled Holy of Holies, the Presence of God, is now revealed. To all who seek a relationship with God, Grace is given through Jesus, the True High Priest. What remains? Our confession, "Truly the Man [is] the Son of God!"

Our sacrifice of praise ~
Who will you share the God-story of Jesus with today? ~dho

All rights reserved, copyright Donna Oswalt 2020

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Maundy Thursday - Betrayal - Lent 2020

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Hebrews 13:15 During this season of reflection and renewal (Lent February 26 - April 12), join me as we examine what "sacrifice of praise" means and how this should and can be our offering to God. What is your sacrifice of praise? – dho

Maundy Thursday services celebrate the giving of the Lord's Supper to the Disciples of Jesus, but the evening of fellowship and teaching and prayer ends in betrayal. As Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, leads the arresting soldiers to Him. He identifies Jesus with a kiss ~ a kiss of betrayal. Perhaps the ultimate betrayal always comes from someone close to our inner circle. Not much different from Judas, we too betray Jesus, with our pride, our apathy, our selfishness, our busyness.

And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "The one I will kiss is the man. Seize Him and lead Him away under guard."

And when he came, he went up to Him at once and said, "Rabbi!" And he kissed Him. And they laid hands on him and seized Him.
Mark 14:43-46 ESV

Our sacrifice of praise ~
Let your tears of betrayal celebrate the Bread and the Wine ~ like Oswald Chambers wrote many, many times, "Be the broken bread and poured out wine." ~dho

All rights reserved, copyright Donna Oswalt 2020