Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday - Mark of Transition

[God...made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus. Hebrews 13:20 MSG During this season of reflection and renewal, join me, and let's explore the visible evidence, the Marks of Life Everlasting - that identifies us as faithful followers of Jesus. Can others see Jesus in our lives? ~ Donna Oswalt]



And they all continued in amazement and great complexity, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" Acts 2:1-13 NASB

These first verses of Acts 2 describe the beginning of Pentecost. This is the day God sends the Holy Spirit. The disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in other languages. Symbolically, the languages confirmed that God's children would come from all nations. This marked the transition from Jesus' earthly ministry to the beginning of the church. All people can come into the Kingdom of God.

Weeks earlier, we find Christ arrested, beaten, and crucified. His death confuses those who had followed Him. Most all of them desert Jesus; fear rules. Believing that Jesus would become an earthly king, confusion and chaos take control. The cross, too, is a time of transition, a time of uncertainty. Who is this Jesus anyway?

Today, we often let fear rule; confusion and chaos disrupt. We live in uncertain times. Our mark of transition is when we choose to live for Jesus. This spiritual transition is just the beginning of the everlasting life that comes only through Jesus. Choose Life!
  • Can you mark your transition from lost to redeemed through Christ? 
  • If you Choose Life, will you share this Everlasting Life with someone else?

Jesus, the cross gives me the opportunity to change, to make a commitment to serving You. In silence I consider the cost of my soul. The cross always wears the mark of transition from death to life. I choose Life! – dho

All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author Copyright 2013 by Donna Oswalt/Co-Founder of Mangrove Ministries/Christian blogger and author Breathing Room For My Soul (blog) Follow on Twitter @soulchat

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Maundy Thursday - Mark of the Nails

[God...made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus. Hebrews 13:20 MSG During this season of reflection and renewal, join me, and let's explore the visible evidence, the Marks of Life Everlasting - that identifies us as faithful followers of Jesus. Can others see Jesus in our lives? ~ Donna Oswalt]


But Thomas (who was called the Twin ), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

From fellowship to betrayal, so goes this day over 2,000 years ago. Christ knows His path, but the disciples do not understand. Now, over 2,000 years later, Christians can recount the story and explain its meaning because we have the Holy Spirit to lead us and teach us about God's word; yet, if we are honest, we struggle with understanding how God could love us so much.

Isaiah 49:16 God said, "Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands." God makes is clear that He will not forsake us, that His compassion and mercy will be with His children. This is the mark God bears. Jesus wears the mark of the nails, signifying His unfailing, unconditional love for His own. He has us engraved on the palms of His hands. Jesus bears the marks of total surrender, wounded and pierced for the sins of all people.
  • Write down words to describe the Divine Love. 
  • Do you believe God really, really loves you? Believe it!
Love Most High, this unconditional love You give to me is more than I can understand. Just knowing that Your hands are engraved with Divine Love for everyone makes me fall to my knees. I do believe! - dho

All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author Copyright 2013 by Donna Oswalt/Co-Founder of Mangrove Ministries/Christian blogger and author Breathing Room For My Soul (blog) Follow on Twitter @soulchat

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Mark of Suffering

[God...made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus. Hebrews 13:20 MSG During this season of reflection and renewal, join me, and let's explore the visible evidence, the Marks of Life Everlasting - that identifies us as faithful followers of Jesus. Can others see Jesus in our lives? ~ Donna Oswalt]

Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2 

Luke is the only Gospel to record Jesus weeping over Jerusalem upon His triumphal entry into the city on the day we now call Palm Sunday. Praises and palm branches, hosannas and hallelujahs roar as plots and hostility whisper in secret. Why does Jesus weep for Jerusalem? Jesus knows the hearts of the people. In a few days, those with religious fears and political agendas along with some of these very people will cry "crucify!" Jesus knows the destruction of Jerusalem is coming; the rejection of the Messiah will bring divine judgment.

During the study of John, notes from Bible Study Fellowship give this insight: Indeed, throughout Jesus' suffering His joy was a distinguishing mark of character that separated Him from them. Jesus' suffering leads to joy. He accomplishes God's will on the cross of redemption and now sits at the right hand of God. Paul writes: for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus [Galatians 6:17] What does he mean? Paul bears the wounds and scars of persecution for Christ's sake. As believers, our joy is grown in trials, and our endurance is increased in difficulty. Soul-full joy in spite of suffering marks our true faith in Christ. 
  • Thinking about the sufferings of Christ, do you think Christ was ever discouraged? 
  • Can others see Christ's mark of suffering [JOY] on my life?
Jesus, my heart weeps at the suffering You endured for me. You were able to look through the suffering to the future with Joy because You knew the Father. I look with Hope and Joy because I know You! - dho 

All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author Copyright 2013 by Donna Oswalt/Co-Founder of Mangrove Ministries/Christian blogger and author Breathing Room For My Soul (blog) Follow on Twitter @soulchat



Thursday, April 04, 2019

Mark of False Teachers

[God...made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus. Hebrews 13:20 MSG During this season of reflection and renewal, join me, and let's explore the visible evidence, the Marks of Life Everlasting - that identifies us as faithful followers of Jesus. Can others see Jesus in our lives? ~ Donna Oswalt]

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you shall know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. 1John 4:1-3 ESV

Scofield’s commentary on this Scripture suggests two marks of false teachers: “(a) Erroneous doctrine concerning Christ’s Person and (b) Erroneous attitude toward the world." To assume that everything we hear or read about God is “true” can open our hearts and minds to false teaching. Those who have a world viewpoint use this as their reference and may have many followers. Some who speak the name of Jesus can lead others down the wrong path. Scripture tells us to discern the Spirit of Truth from a spirit of untruth by comparing the truths of God’s Word against the words we hear. The world will tell you there are “no absolute truths” and unfortunately, you can even hear that in some churches. "What's true for you is true!" is not compatible with the Word of God.

What absolute truths do Christians believe? One truth is found in 1 John 4:7-21. God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God but that He loves us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. . . We love because He first loved us. Christ’s deity is an absolute truth, just as His humanity, miracles of healing, ministry of love and forgiveness, experiences of betrayal, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. Listen carefully to the rhetoric of others; read prayerfully the words in books. Listen for the Spirit of Truth. 

Lord, give me courage to seek the Spirit of Truth. Open my mind to corrupt views that diminish who You are. Help me listen with a discerning spirit! – dho

All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author Copyright 2013 by Donna Oswalt/Co-Founder of Mangrove Ministries/Christian blogger and author Breathing Room For My Soul (blog) Follow on Twitter @soulchat

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Mark of Sanctification

[God...made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus. Hebrews 13:20 MSG During this season of reflection and renewal, join me, and let's explore the visible evidence, the Marks of Life Everlasting - that identifies us as faithful followers of Jesus. Can others see Jesus in our lives? ~ Donna Oswalt]


Sanctify them [purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy] by the Truth; Your Word is Truth. Just as You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  John 17:17-18 AMP


Make them holy – consecrated – with the truth; Your word is consecrating truth. In the same way that You gave Me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. John 17:17-18 MSG

The follower of Christ is made pure and holy, first by believing, and secondly by obeying the Word of God. With salvation comes the forgiveness of sins, but it is the daily walk that purifies the Christian’s heart and mind. As Jesus prays for His disciples, He acknowledges that it is Truth that makes them holy. Jesus is that Truth. He then tells us where to find the Truth – in God’s Word. 

Not only is Jesus the path to forgiveness, He asks us to take His Truth to the world. Sanctification marks a person for a specific use or empowers one for God’s use. Christians are set apart to give glory to God and share the Good News. Daily being in His word and searching for His truth, praying for guidance and listening for God’s voice provides the tools necessary to share Christ in the world. Be pure and holy in Christ!
  • Do your daily routines involve spending quality time with God? If not, will you commit to do this? 
  • What opportunities do you have to share the Good News?


Holy One, open my heart to Your Truth that I may see the need to sit with You, to read Your word, to pray more sincerely, to listen more intently. Make my mind and heart pure and holy for Your glory. - dho

All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author Copyright 2013 by Donna Oswalt/Co-Founder of Mangrove Ministries/Christian blogger and author Breathing Room For My Soul (blog) Follow on Twitter @soulchat

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Mark of Testing

[God...made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus. Hebrews 13:20 MSG During this season of reflection and renewal, join me, and let's explore the visible evidence, the Marks of Life Everlasting - that identifies us as faithful followers of Jesus. Can others see Jesus in our lives? ~ Donna Oswalt]

At once the Spirit sent [Jesus] out into the desert, and He was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended Him. Mark 1:12-13

‘Forty days’ is a recurring period of time in Scripture. Many Bible scholars point out that “40” is a familiar number and measures days or years. A few examples include “it rained for 40 days and nights” with Noah’s family inside the ark, twice Moses spent “40 days and 40 nights” on the mountain with God receiving the Ten Commandments, and the Israelites spent “40 years in the wilderness” for their unfaithfulness before they could enter the Promised Land. In our Scripture, after Jesus’ baptism and before His ministry begins, Jesus is led into the wilderness for forty days during which time He is tested by Satan. There are others, but scholars suggest these all represent times of need or struggle or testing; some convey the time is spent in preparation for something important. These examples certainly confirm this with a renewed earth after the flood, God’s covenant is renewed after Moses intervenes, the Israelites enter the Promised Land, and Jesus begins His public ministry. In all these times, God is working a transformation in the lives of the people.

Another phrase that recurs in my reading is the “wilderness experience”. Through this wilderness experience, the lessons of God’s Provision and Power are clear. Like Jesus in the desert, we too face extreme circumstances where our faith is tested. The world always tries to challenge us to a different set of values than God chooses. Jesus must reject Satan’s offerings of power and glory. We, too, must reject these temptations when tested. In my times in the wilderness, I want it to end sooner than it usually does. Sometimes, I will find the world’s choices look very appealing. When testing comes, the experiences reveal our hearts. During Lent, we can examine our values and renew our covenant with God, learning from our failures and being strengthened by grace.
  •  How is my wilderness experience preparing my heart?
  • Am I transformed in the wilderness? Can anyone tell?
God of Mercy and Grace, I want to be found faithful when testing comes, knowing patience and truth. When the idols of life and selfish choices scream for attention, take me to the wilderness and teach me, heal me, prepare me. Lord, transform me to be more like You. ~ dho

All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2013 by Donna Oswalt/Co-Founder of Mangrove Ministries/Christian blogger and author Breathing Room For My Soul (blog) Follow on Twitter @soulchat

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Mark of Reverance

[God...made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus. Hebrews 13:20 MSG During this season of reflection and renewal, join me, and let's explore the visible evidence, the Marks of Life Everlasting - that identifies us as faithful followers of Jesus. Can others see Jesus in our lives? ~ Donna Oswalt]

. . . The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. He gave the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs . . . let everyone stand in awe of Him. . . The LORD looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From His throne He observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so He understands everything they do. . . the LORD watches over those who fear Him, those who rely on His unfailing love. . . We depend on the LORD alone to save us. Only He can help us, protecting us like a shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we are trusting in His holy name. . . our hope is in You alone. Psalm 33 NLT

I invite you to read all of Psalm 33 as it describes the characteristics of our Sovereign God, the LORD of all creation. In these verses we are reminded of Genesis chapter 1 as it reflects the beginnings of the world. God is referred to in Genesis 1:1-3 as Elohimthe All-powerful One, the Creator. The LORD in Psalm 33 is the Hebrew Yahweh, I AM, the One Who Is. God never changes, and His promises never fail. He is always faithful, even when we are not.

I don’t know about you, but my imagination cannot begin to understand this kind of holy power. Just thinking about the minute details of every living thing brings a sense of awe to my mind. This reverent awe, this overwhelming wonder brings me to my knees in worship and praise of God. This kind of fear transforms the heart, mind and soul; this is the mark of reverence.
  •  Why do I forget to fear God like this?
  •  Does being in awe of our Sovereign God truly transform my life?
LORD, Yahweh ~ You are the beginning and the end of all things, of all time. Your whisper can change the wind, calm the storm, light the night sky, and water the earth. Your Protection covers me, but I do not notice. You are the Source of life, yet I forget. Forgive me as You fill me with holy wonder. Transform me as You teach me unfailing love. May my life reveal a mark of reverence for the Creator of all! ~dho

All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2013 by Donna Oswalt/Co-Founder of Mangrove Ministries/Christian blogger and author Breathing Room For My Soul (blog) Follow on Twitter @soulchat

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Mark of God's Faithfulness

[God...made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus. Hebrews 13:20 MSG
During this season of reflection and renewal, join me, and let's explore the visible evidence, the Marks of Life Everlasting - that identifies us as faithful followers of Jesus. Can others see Jesus in our lives? ~ 
Donna Oswalt]

. . . and the LORD said to Joshua, “. . .Take twelve stones from here out of the Jordan”. . . And those twelve stones, which they took up out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know. . . For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over. . . so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” Joshua 4 ESV


This account in Joshua describes the scenes as the Israelites finally enter the Promised Land. Their unfaithfulness had kept them in the desert for 40 years after being freed from Egypt. Despite their lack of faith, God’s promise to them remains. Now Joshua leads as they enter the land promised to them through Abraham. God tells Joshua to take twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes, and make a memorial. This is the first of seven stone memorials described in Joshua. What does it represent? Israel safely crosses the Jordan River into the long awaited Promised Land; God’s faithfulness prevails, and this memorial is to become a reminder to them and all the generations to come that God is always faithful. It is the mark of God’s faithfulness.
  •  What stories do you tell family and friends about Gods faithfulness in your life?
  • Will the generations to come pass along these stories?

LORD, my God, Your faithfulness to me comes from before time began and will continue after time ends. In the middle of my circumstances, sometimes I forget to tell my stories of how You never leave me, always go before me, protect and provide for me. I take Your strength but do not share it. Let me tell Your stories of faithfulness to me – tell them now and pass them to the future. ~dho


All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2013 by Donna Oswalt/Co-Founder of Mangrove Ministries/Christian blogger and author


Breathing Room For My Soul (blog) Follow on Twitter @soulchat

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Ash Wednesday - Mark of Ashes

[God...made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus. Hebrews 13:20 MSG During this season of reflection and renewal, join me, and let's explore the visible evidence, the Marks of Life Everlasting - that identifies us as faithful followers of Jesus. Can others see Jesus in our lives? ~ Donna Oswalt]


"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6

[Jesus said] "Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:13

Jesus came for sinners, those who need His mercy. All of fallen humanity meets the requirements of ‘sinner.’ Only through Jesus can we be made holy, only through His Grace can we be made righteous. It is only our soul’s sincere repentance that invites Grace to enter. On this Ash Wednesday, Christians around the world gather together and receive the sign of the cross on their foreheads. These ashes remind us of our need for Grace, remind us that without Jesus we are only sinners. With Jesus, however, we are sinners who find forgiveness and redemption. We can trade our ashes for a robe of righteousness with Jesus! 

- How will I praise God for such unconditional love?

- Will others see only my ashes or will they see the Grace of Jesus?

Jesus, I kneel at Your altar wearing the mark of a sinner. With humble awareness I examine my need for grace, my desire to serve You more. Let my love and service always be mindful of Your mercy. - dho

All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2013 by Donna Oswalt/Co-Founder of Mangrove Ministries/Christian blogger and author
Breathing Room For My Soul (blog) Follow on Twitter @soulchat

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Listening to the Broken Places - Part 2

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.  When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.
Job 2:11-13



Listening to those who are suffering can be difficult because we often do not know what to say. Frequently, the best thing we can give is not words but simply our presence. Like Job’s three friends, they come and sit with him “with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.” Sometimes, just listening in silence is good.


Listening is a very active awareness of the coming together of two lives. Henri Nouwen

Sharing with another who is suffering is a privilege. Nouwen reminds us that listening is an “active awareness” and a “coming together” of two people. Healing can occur when shared stories merge. He goes on to describe this active listening as “weaving a new pattern” with “two different life stories stretched on the same loom.” This joining of hearts and stories enriches both lives. Knowing you are not suffering alone and finding others who have had common experiences can alter perspective. Sometimes, listening to each other’s shared experiences proves necessary. - dho


                                                        

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Listening to the Broken Places - Part 1

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-5




Henri Nouwen writes, “A wounded healer is someone who can listen to a person in pain without having to speak about his or her own wounds.” As we look at the word ‘comfort’ in this Scripture, we find the Greek word parakaleo which means “to call to one’s side” or “to summon help” or “to encourage”. Clearly, believers in Christ who receive comfort are called to come alongside others with comfort. Often, simply listening can be the comforter’s greatest resource. 


God’s comfort includes His presence which comes through Grace. The God of all Comfort comforts us, and we comfort others. This comfort also speaks to eternal comfort for our future lives. God’s comfort is abundant and full of hope. God listens to us.

Blackaby writes, “Just as God has come alongside our lives to comfort so we do likewise to other believers.” While struggling with disappointments and difficulties, God comforts us, encourages us, and gives us hope. When we struggle, Scripture tells us we enter into the sufferings of Christ. Having found comfort in our suffering, we are then to come alongside side others, to offer comfort. Listening to the broken places becomes part of being a ‘wounded healer’. Nouwen explains, “We have to trust that our own bandaged wounds will allow us to listen to others with our whole beings. That is healing.” -dho