Thursday, July 11, 2019

Breathe... Holy Sighs

2019 Summer SeriesWhisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson takes us on a spiritual journey, a journey of how to listen for God and what God can reveal to us. I read this book about a year ago and am re-reading it this summer. As I share some excerpts from his writing, I hope you will be encouraged to read along. - Donna

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:2




In the beginning before creation, we find infinite space, emptiness, and lack of order; yet, even then, the Spirit of God is present. Scripture tells us how God speaks the emptiness into an ordered system, sufficient to sustain life, and then God creates life. Batterson reminds us that God, “still speaks light into darkness... still brings order out of chaos... still makes beauty out of ashes.” (Whisper, p31) Christ is called Immanuel, God with us, and when we embrace the love of Christ and accept His grace of salvation, Christ becomes “God within us”.


“God is as close as the breath we breathe.” (Whisper, p32) 

The human mind cannot begin to measure the infinity of God. His Sovereignty exceeds time and space, being everywhere at all times, without boundaries, without beginning, without ending. His power is greater than any power in the world, above or below the heavens. The Holy Spirit brings us into God’s presence, anoints us with unspeakable holiness, embraces us with perfect love, covers us with unfailing mercies. Holy, Holy, Holy!

This week spend some time thinking about God’s omnipresence, God-everywhere! God cannot be contained or measured, only rejected. Let’s try to listen better to the “God within us” and breathe the holy sighs of His presence. - dho 



In 

Thursday, July 04, 2019

True Freedom

You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don't let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.  Galatians 5:13-14 CEB




Americans celebrate the birthday of our country’s freedom this day, July 4th! Often we use the word freedom as permission to do whatever we want, whatever might satisfy our own personal desires. While it is true, freedom has wide boundaries, this is not the intention of freedom. In the Epistle of James we read about the "royal law found in Scripture" [James 2:8] which reminds "you do well when you really fulfill the royal law found in Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself." Christians find true freedom in Christ, our liberty from the captivity of sin. This GRACE is for the asking, no strings attached - but the responsibility of such extravagant freedom transforms our hearts. Our focus can no longer be consumed with selfish motivations. Instead, we are to exercise freedom with love for others - upholding this "royal law". This is freedom's opportunity for all!  

In every way, then, speak and act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom. [James 2:12 CEB]

In 4th grade, we learned all four verses to My Country 'Tis of Thee. I can still see them written on the blackboard with white chalk. As we learned each verse, we would sing it. Of course, things were different then. We also said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning; the American flag hung in every class room. Prayer had not yet been removed from public schools, and it was not a crime for a teacher to speak God's name. That same year, we practiced civil defense drills, too. Anyone remember those? We would get under our school desks for the drill. These were practiced in case America was attacked. I smile at the absurdity of thinking this would have kept any of us safe in an attack. Yet, my heart immediately goes to 9-11 when America was attacked! Getting under the desk did not save anyone. If fact, the only way to save America is for its people to live Christ's law of freedom. Don't miss freedom's opportunity! - dho

Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom's holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.*

* the 4th verse to "My Country 'Tis of Thee”

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Voice of God - Summer Series

2019 Summer SeriesWhisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson takes us on a spiritual journey, a journey of how to listen for God and what God can reveal to us. I read this book about a year ago and am re-reading it this summer. As I share some excerpts from his writing, I hope you will be encouraged to read along. - Donna

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in holy array.
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
The Lord is over many waters.d
The voice of the Lord is powerful,
The voice of the Lord is majestic.
Psalm 29:2-4

In Psalm 29, a praise song, we find a great description of the power and majesty of God and read how God’s voice creates and commands, gives strength and blesses. Blackaby writes, “God’s voice is powerful enough to shake the world. No earthly force is comparable.” This Scripture uses the Hebrew word qol for voice meaning “to call aloud, a sound, noise, a cry.” The same word is used in Genesis 3:8 about Adam and Eve,“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” Many other places in Scripture we can read about the sound or voice or audible actions of God as He reveals himself.

In Batterson’s book, Whisper, he talks about, “The voice of God is all-powerful... [and] also all-loving.” He begins to explore “seven languages of God” telling us the “first language is Scripture” while describing the next six secondary languages as “desires, doors, dreams, promptings, prayer, an pain.” (Whisper, p22) God reveals himself to us, and in turn, we are to recognize God’s character and to praise His Sovereignty. 

In reading Whisper, you will find many great descriptions of sound and song where Scripture and science intersect in splendid revelation. Batterson writes, “God uses His voice to speak, but He also uses it to heal and reveal, convict and create, guide and grace.” (Whisper, p25) To hear God’s voice, we must listen with an awareness of how God speaks. - dho

**Found this link to Whisper with complementary Christian music... very cool!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Breath of Life - Summer Series

2019 Summer SeriesWhisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson takes us on a spiritual journey, a journey of how to listen for God and what God can reveal to us. I read this book about a year ago and am re-reading it this summer. As I share some excerpts from his writing, I hope you will be encouraged to read along. - Donna


The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV

To escape being killed by Jezebel, Elijah runs. Exhausted, he says to God, “It is enough!” and lies down and sleeps. God sends provisions of food and water and gives him rest to prepare for his 200 mile, 40-day journey to the mountain of God. In our Scripture, we find Elijah discouraged and alone, hiding in a cave. In contrast to the powerful miracles God had performed with consuming fire, God now teaches Elijah that His greatest plans are long-term, His most intimate language comes another way, through stillness and in silence.

We live in a world that is overcrowded with noise, full of constant interruptions and consistent distractions. God desires to communicate with us and often speaks in a gentle and quiet way, personal and intimate. Like Elijah who is desperate to hear God, we expect that God’s way will be spectacular, but we learn that God’s ways are not our ways. Batterson says, God “woos us with a whisper. And His whisper is the very breath of life.” (Whisper, p10) As you listen for God’s voice to speak to you this week, anticipate the unexpected in the simple and silent gestures of life. Listen for God’s whisper. Then do what Batterson suggests, “Obey the whisper and see what God does.” (Whisper, p11) - dho



Thursday, June 13, 2019

Hear God’s Voice - Summer Series

2019 Summer Series: Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson takes us on a spiritual journey, a journey of how to listen for God and what God can reveal to us. I read this book about a year ago and am re-reading it this summer. As I share some excerpts from his writing, I hope you will be encouraged to read along. - Donna


Samuel said, “Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10 

In his book, Whisper, Mark Batterson suggests this Scripture from the book of Samuel captures the essence of seeking God’s voice and calls it “the seven-word prayer that can change your life”. He describes God’s voice this way: 

His voice is love. 
His voice is power. 
His voice is healing. 
His voice is wisdom. 
His voice is joy.  - Mark Batterson/Whisper, p2

As we spend time this summer learning how to better listen for God’s voice, we must first ask ourselves a question Batterson asks: “Is God’s voice the loudest voice in your life?” I hope you will journey with me and explore listening for God’s direction, revelation, encouragement, comfort, and mercy. -dho





Sunday, June 09, 2019

Holy Wind... Pentecost Sunday!


“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 21st 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. Today, Sunday June 9, 2019, 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. - dho 

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Mark of Jesus - I AM the Resurrection and the LIfe


Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in Me and will never perish. John 11:25-26 NLT

We find everlasting joy in the seventh “I AM” statement of Jesus, reflected annually with Easter celebrations around the world. Easter Sunday is full of joy, praise and hallelujahs that proclaim once again Extravagant Love! His love not only precedes us, it exceeds us. Resurrection marks the transition between life and overcoming death. His resurrection bears the marks of His Passion for mankind. This Everlasting Grace conquers the spiritual death. With certainty we find our Blessed Assurance even in the darkest times. The resurrection of Jesus restores life, offers new life to all, and gives enduring peace. Holy, Holy, Holy; Holy is the LORD. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. 

  • Celebrate the resurrection; consider Extravagant Love
  • Share the resurrection; offer Christ to another.

Holy One, such love wraps my life with assurance of life, and Grace weaves my life into Your community of believers. Mark me as Yours; restore my soul. Hallelujah to the Love Most High! - dho

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Mark of Jesus - I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life




Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." John 14:6 NASB

This is the sixth of seven "I AM" statements that Jesus gives us about His deity. Jesus clearly states that there is one way to the Father and that way is through Him. Jesus is the way to God, and Jesus is the truth of God. Jesus is the true and everlasting life. Scripture tells us the way is "narrow" and the "broad" way leads to destruction. There will be those who only pretend to follow Jesus, but the Truth knows the heart. Jesus is the only way to salvation; He is the bridge back to God. 

I AM the righteous road, the truth-fulfilled Savior, the life-giving Spirit that leads to eternal life. Jesus said, "Follow Me!" We are to walk the righteous, narrow road of integrity, humility, and compassion. We are to share the truth of Jesus, the Son of God, with love, with gentleness, with encouragement. We are to live in the presence of the Spirit, finding His peace and joy and rest. 
  • Do you know the way, the truth and the life that only Jesus offers? 
  • Have you shared this Jesus with anyone? Will you?


Savior, lead me to the quiet waters of Your refreshment; open my mind to Your will. Fill my soul with Your Spirit; empower me to share Jesus. - dho

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Mark of Jesus - I AM the Bread of Life




Jesus replied, “I am the Bread of Life. No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in Me will never thirst. . . I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; this bread is my flesh, offered so the world may live.” John 6:35,58 NLT




Jesus uses bread to explain the difference between meeting the physical needs of hunger and the spiritual needs of redemption. Our physical life requires ongoing nutrition to survive, while our spiritual growth requires an ongoing relationship with Jesus. The greatest difference between bread and living bread is that in Christ our souls know permanent nourishment, everlasting sustenance. 

How does one eat living bread? Believing that Christ’s death and resurrection brings each one new life and trusting the Holy Spirit for guidance is the beginning. Continuing to grow in our knowledge and faith sustains us. Sharing the Good News of Jesus, sharing the living bread with others gives an even deeper satisfaction. Christ came down out of heaven, and Perfect Love offered Himself so the world may live.
  • Hungry? How much time do you spend feeding your soul with Gods word? 
  • Will you commit to spending time with God - daily?
Living Bread ~ I am fed by an offering I cannot explain. Bread of Heaven, feed me ‘til I want no more. My God-story is full! – dho

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Mark of Jesus - I AM the Vine




I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. . . By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:5, 8 NKJV



From these words, we understand Jesus to express the necessity of abiding with Him. Another way to say this is ‘to remain in fellowship with Me’. This kind of fellowship is personal and daily and suggests to stay in close contact with Jesus. How is this demonstrated? Characteristics of trust and prayer, obedience and joy are the marks of abiding with Jesus. 

Another outcome which is included in the same sentence as ‘abide’ is ‘bears much fruit’. Fruit refers to the good works and servant lifestyle that honors God and furthers His work in the world. The key to being able to produce fruit is completely linked to abiding in Christ; He is the Vine and we are the branches. Don’t miss the last part: without Me you can do nothing. Living a fruitful life comes from abiding in Christ. These inward and outward characteristics together mark us for His service and our service for His Glory!
  • Read John 15:1-9: Who is the vinedresser? Who is the true vine? Who are the branches?
  • In John 15:9, what kind of love is described? 
Lord, I believe that without You, I can do nothing; yet I fail to seek You, ask You or listen to You time after time. Forgive my inconsistent abiding. Help me improve my daily, personal relationship with You that my life might give honor to God. - dho

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Mark of Jesus - I AM the Good Shepherd


I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . .I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. . . they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father. John 10:11-18 NRSV

Reading this passage in John, we learn about the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep, about thieves and flocks in need. Jesus says I AM the good shepherd. He knows His sheep; His sheep know Him, know His voice. Jesus is the good shepherd who protects and provides for His flock. Unlike the thieves who are unreliable, Jesus even lays down His life for His sheep. He will never abandon them.

The metaphors of sheep and shepherd help us understand our relationship with Jesus. As His sheep we are totally dependent upon His care, His guidance. He is our security. Jesus voluntarily chooses us as His sheep then gives His life for us. Jesus says I AM the good shepherd. This Divine Love exceeds our capacity to understand. As we journey through Lent, it is the sacrifice of such Divine Love that overwhelms the soul. For me, for this sheep, I know Jesus lay down His life and took it up again. New Life comes to me because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. 
  • Is Jesus your good shepherd
  • How do you express your total dependence on the good shepherd?

Good Shepherd, I need you in every way. Your leading is the path I choose. My praise for such Divine Love shouts wordless Hallelujahs! - dho