Thursday, March 23, 2023

Lent 2023 - Believe

This is and has been the Father's work from the beginning - to bring us into the home of His heart.  George MacDonald

Despite the miracles Jesus performed, there were those who 
did not believe He was the Christ. There were those who did believe but were afraid to speak up, afraid of rejection or punishment. And still there were others in the crowd who believed, but their faith was fragile and weak. We, too, are standing in the crowd today. What do you choose?

Read John 12:37-50

Many people, including some of the Jewish leaders, believed in Him. But they wouldn't admit it to anyone because of their fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.  John 12:42-43 NLT

Jesus shouted to the crowds, "If you trust Me, you are really trusting God who sent Me." John 12:44 NLT

God's plan from the beginning was to offer us a way back to Him, to offer us salvation. We can read all the books ever written and ask all the questions ever wondered and still not have the evidence that our human minds crave. Grace came into the world in the form of Perfect Love, not in the way the world found logical. How often we choose human praise over God's praise! How seldom we really place our trust in God! Yet, God still chooses us!

consider this!
  • What evidence is necessary to secure your belief in Christ?
  • Using Jesus' words (vs. 44-50), explain Christ's purpose in coming to earth the first time?
  • How does your desire for human praise stand in the way of trusting in God's Plan?

Lord ~ We stand in the crowd watching. Some around us choose the world, and others choose You but are afraid to tell. Then, there are those that choose the Grace that only Perfect Love can give. Forgive us when we find the world's applause more appealing than the Spirit's whispers. Forgive us when we stand in the crowd, and no one knows we stand with You. Amen. ~dho

** previously posted on this blog/2009/dho

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Lent 2023 - Purpose

God by His providence brings you into circumstances that you can't understand at all, but the Spirit of God understands. God brings you to places, among people, and into certain conditions to accomplish a definite purpose through the intercession of the Spirit in you.  Oswald Chambers from My Utmost for His Highest

Situations that we do not understand happen all the time. Disasters, poverty, crime and diseases are part of everyday life. We live in a fallen world; sin rules, and Satan is the prince of darkness. Yet, God can take each of these circumstances ~ especially the hardest ones that are beyond understanding ~ and show us how we can use them to give Him glory.

Read John 9:1-7

Jesus said, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who send me here… I am the world's Light. John 9:3-5 The Message 

In a crisis, the one question that usually remains unanswered is "WHY". Scripture tells us not to waste time assigning blame, rather we are to see God in every circumstance, looking for a way to be the light of Jesus to the world. Will we understand everything then? No! The right questions are How can I best praise God in this crisis? Will others see Jesus in my reactions? Am I turning to God for His vision in difficult times?. 

consider this!
  • In verse 2, what question did the disciples ask Jesus?
  • Did the blind man approach Jesus and ask for healing?
  • How is Jesus improving your vision?

Jesus ~ You are the Great Physician who heals the bruised and broken. How often I think that only means physical healing. You always offer spiritual healing through difficult circumstances. The world blames You when life becomes dark and complicated. But You are Light and Love! Teach me how to praise God in all things, at all times. For His Goodness is everlasting. Amen. ~dho

*previously published on this blog/2009/dho

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Lent 2023 - Love

Our preciousness, uniqueness, and individuality are not given to us by those who meet us in clock-time - our brief chronological existence - but by the One who has chosen us with an everlasting love, a love that existed from all eternity and will last through all eternity. Henri Nouwen from Life of the Beloved (pg. 51)

Tennyson wrote 
I am a part of all that I have met. We are the same - with our experiences mingling and mirroring and monitoring the experiences of those we meet. This is what Nouwen refers to as our brief chronological existence. Yet, more importantly, how do we live?

Read 2 John 1:4-6

I can't tell you how happy I am to learn that many members of your congregation are diligent in living out the Truth . . . Love means following His commandments, and His unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love… 2 John 1:4,6 The Message 

The love John writes about is a Holy Love that God gives to us just because He chooses to love us. Mostly, our finite minds cannot comprehend any person who would love us ~ just as we are. God's generous Love stands ready to shape us into more while we waiver casually in search of self. Truth calls to us conduct your lives in love!

consider this!
  • Think about how consistently you conduct your lives in love.
  • God's commandment is "to love" ~ Was John teaching something new?
  • Are you becoming "more"? Do you credit "clock-time" or "God's Love?

Lord ~ In our every day, the world influences us, tells us partial truths, places unworthy desires in our hearts. The world calls and is unrelenting. But You - You whisper songs of mercy, show us Eternal Truth, embrace us with extravagant love. Why do we choose the world over You? Help us see the One who chooses us! Teach us to be diligent. Amen. ~dho

*previously published on this blog/2009/dho

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Lent 2023 - Truths

Whatever keeps me from my Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to me. A.W. Tozer

The secular response to Christ - if there is any acknowledgement - is that Christ was a great teacher and a good person. The world says there are no absolute truths, that truth is what you believe to be true. The Holy Scriptures, the foundation of the Christian faith, tell a different story. Christ is the Living Son of God, the willing and sinless sacrifice offered for all the iniquities of humanity. He has always been and will always be. Jesus came in human form to earth to fulfill God's Plan of salvation for mankind. There ARE truths that must be part of our faith statement as Christians. Without these absolute truths, we claim a belief in nothing more than good intentions.

Read 1 John 2:18-29

So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will continue to live in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life He promised us. . . you have received the Holy Spirit and He lives within you. . . For the Spirit teaches you all things, and what He teaches is true. 1 John 2:24,27 NLT

Through careful and continued study of the Scriptures, these truths become more clear. God reveals Himself to us today through the Living Word. The Scriptures are both ancient and living words, telling us the stories of old and using these lessons for today. Our struggles in the world are no different than centuries ago. There was unbelief then and unbelief today. Then - time after time, faith required a bold stance in the face of uncertainty, and today - we must continue to stand boldly in faith to our Creator, Redeemer and King.

consider this!
  • How do believers come to more fully understand the character of God?
  • Why does the world dilute and deny the absolute truths in the Scriptures?
  • What do you believe about Christ?

Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me. Father, Son and Spirit ~ three in One ~ we cannot understand Perfect Love, but we can accept this Gift by faith. Give us the courage to grow in understanding of the Living Word, to share the truths about Christ, so we might be light in the darkness. Amen. ~ dho

* 1 John 2:28 The Message - . . . Live deeply in Christ.

*previously published on this blog/2009/dho

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Lenten 2023 - Respond

The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.  Fredrick Buechner

We search the world for meaning, for purpose, for reasons. When the world does not offer wanted answers, we wonder if God has forgotten us. If we pray to God for meaning, for purpose, for reasons, and He does not respond as we expect, we doubt that God is listening. We crave more and more of the world's tokens, collecting the trophies of greed and pride, and we are empty. And still, God calls to us and seeks us ~ wherever we are. God has designed a purpose for each of us ~ a place to serve. God abides with us ~ in all times. Perhaps it is we who have forgotten; it is we who are not listening.

Read 1 John 2:12-17

I remind you, dear children: Your sins are forgiven in Jesus' name. . . And a second reminder, dear children: You know the Father from personal experience. . . Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world - wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important - has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from Him.
1 John 2:12-16 The Message

In a deeping relationship with God, our wants change. We can respond with greater compassion, with quiet humility, with sincere love. We begin to respond to the Father's love. We search the heart, the mind, the soul for His Presence. We find deep gladness.

consider this!
  • When your deep gladness in God merges with the world's deep hunger, what happens?
  • How does a growing personal relationship with God change your wants?
  • What are your God-cravings?

Living Word ~ remain in our hearts ~ guide our thoughts ~ abide with us always. Forgive us when we ignore You. How often we stand at the corner of "Want" and "More," uncertain and unsure! Yet You forgive our selfish ways, call us to a place of deep gladness. Take away our cravings for the world and replace them with cravings for You. Amen. ~ dho

*previously published on this blog/2009/dho

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Lent 2023 - Ash Wednesday

The season of Lent begins today, Ash Wednesday. I pray this will be a season of reflection and your soul finds new intimacy with Christ. May you know spiritual renewal as you spend time remembering Jesus - His Love, His Life, His Gift.

Lord, mark me with ashes as a reminder that I am in need of your grace -dho

Thursday, February 16, 2023

So Many Words!

Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person's lips brings satisfaction. Proverbs 18:20 NLT

We are overloaded with words every day! Words arrive electronically by emails, texts, tweets. Television and podcasts depend on words to convey information, entertainment, and advertisement. Newspapers and magazines and books, either tangible or electronic, infuse our minds with thoughts, ideas, and possibilities. We use words, spoken and written, to express our emotions and our opinions, to share our sympathy and our joy, to defend our decisions and our beliefs. Unfortunately, sometimes in communicating, we choose words that wound and deceive.

Eugene Peterson reminds us, "Words are never mere words - they convey spirit, meaning, energy, and truth." He goes on to say that words reveal and words conceal. Every day I read ancient words composed centuries ago, but they still touch my soul, enrich my living, convict my spirit, encourage my journey. The Holy Bible is composed of words inspired by God and the revelation of The Word sent by God. Mother Teresa is quoted, "Words which do not give the light of Christ, increase the darkness." In a world overflowing with words from sufficient to superfluous, how satisfied is your soul? Do your words increase the light of Christ in the world? Word of Life, be mine! ~dho

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Becoming What You Worship - Part 4

Through Jesus, then, let us keep offering to God our own sacrifice, the praise of lips that confess His name without ceasing. Hebrews 13:15 The Voice Bible

Blackaby writes, "Genuine worship...originates within our hearts." In the Old Testament, under the original covenant, sacrifices hold an important role in the offerings, and Levite priests offer the sacrifices in the temple "on behalf of the people". Blackaby refers to the Levites as “worship leaders of their day." In the New Testament, animal sacrifices lose their importance because Christ becomes the last blood sacrifice needed, and God clearly emphasizes our praises and thanksgiving in worship. All this makes me think of those we call Worship Leaders in churches today. They are usually the ones who help us give voice to our hearts’ praises to God.

Music, in its various forms, is central to the worship experience and frequently sets the mood and tone. T
hrough music, the rhythm of our soul's offering of praise to the Lord finds expression. Words cause the mind to ponder His character, expose the soul's deepest need, and provide the heart an opportunity to reply. Matthew Henry, Bible commentator, reminds us that "Christ is both our Altar and our Sacrifice." As we worship, this ceaseless sacrifice of praise defines the authenticity of the Christian heart.

Typically, in traditional and contemporary settings, the Worship Leader designs spiritual opportunities and engages the people. In more contemporary styles, this worship time is often referred to as 'praise music'. Comparing Worship Leaders of the OT, with today's Worship Leaders, I find stark contrasts. No longer are animal sacrifices offered for people's sins; today, people directly worship God and stand in His presence because of Grace. Today's sacrifices look different. No more blood sacrifices are needed. Our sacrifice of praise rises to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving, with song or in Scripture, on chords or in chants, with drums or dance. Worship Leaders exalt God's majesty, while allowing us to examine our hearts and evolve our praise language. Praise and Worship is language pleasing to God!

* previously posted on this blog 10/23/14