Thursday, December 24, 2009

Prince of Peace

"At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please Him."
Luke 2:13-14 MSG
Lately I have been giving much thought to peace ~ what exactly is peace and what is the path to peace! We know that God is the Source of all true peace; Christ is the Good News of peace sent to us from God. Peace is the message of the angels the night that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

". . . 'Peace on the earth, good will to men,
from heaven's all-gracious King:
'The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing."*
Peace in the Hebrew (shalom) and Greek (eirene) teach "absence of
disturbance" and is the primary blessing of God's people. Scofield offers four references to peace: Peace with God, Peace from God, Peace of God, and Peace on earth. Deep inside, each of us desires the assurance of peace. Only God can provide complete peace.
". . .O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing . . ."*

"Peace of God" is often challenged by a world full of anxieties and chaos, doubts and uncertainties, but it is this "inner peace" the soul knows when faith in Christ leads one to "peace with God." Perfect peace is a gift God gives to the faithful ones who trust in Him.

". . . When peace shall over all the earth
It's ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world sends back the song
Which now the angels sing."*

"Peace on earth" is the promise of His everlasting peace which is still to come. For now, each of us are called to embrace peace offered by the Author of peace, measured by the Prince of Peace, and revealed by the Spirit. In this Holy Season, let us receive the Prince of Peace. May Christ's peace be the ornament that decorates our hearts at Christmas and throughout the coming year. ~dho

Merry Christmas!

*lyrics from It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Harvest

Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.

Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.

The LORD will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.

Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.

Psalm 85:10-13 NIV;

When you read The Message, the word used for faithfulness is truth; Love and truth meet. Also, the words righteousness and peace kiss are interchanged for Right Living and Whole Living embrace. Jesus personifies Love and Truth. In our redemption, He is both Love and Truth eternally mingled with our hearts and souls. The yield is our Right Living, the sharing of His Love and Truth with others. Our reward becomes Whole Living, peace ~ His Peace. This is God's Holy Harvest!

God's faithfulness is His promise of Truth, the Truth that Right Living and Whole Living bring to each of us robes of righteousness and inner peace that exceeds all understanding. We kneel before the Love Most High overwhelmed with thankfulness for His goodness. It is His gift of righteousness, of Right Living, that surrounds us, protects us, leads us into the next moment. It is inside this gift we unwrap Whole Living, His Peace! How complete is His Offering! May my sacrifices of thank offerings honor this Bounty-full God! ~dho

Happy Thanksgiving to each of you! ~dho

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Our Strength and Stronghold

There was a ship at sea in a storm. The passengers were in great distress. After a while one them, against orders, went up on deck and made his way to the pilot. The seaman was at his post of duty at the wheel, and when he saw the man was greatly frightened he gave him a reassuring smile. Then, the passenger turned and went back to the other passengers and said, "I have seen the pilot and he smiled, 'All is well.'" When our small boat of life is storm-tossed and our hearts are fearful, we may push through the storm to our Pilot who is standing at the wheel, and when we see His face we shall know that 'all is well'. Robert Louis Stevenson

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a storm? Whether our current storm is a spring shower or thunder storm, a tornado or blizzard, a hurricane or tsunami, God can be the Pilot of our ship and our Port of refuge.

Circumstances can be like an angry ocean, a flooding river, a rising creek, but only God can offer the calmness that comes with the sound of a gentle rain or the peace that lingers in the gaze at a starry night sky. With Christ, we no longer have to wrestle with the uncertain chaos and confusion; we can wait and rest in the assurance of a living, faithful God ~ no matter the storm. ~dho

"The Lord is good, a Strength and Stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows (recognizes, has knowledge of and understands) those who take refuge and trust in Him."
Nahum 1:7 The Amplified Bible

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Delight For My Soul!

If GOD hadn't been there for me,
I never would have made it.
The minute I said, "I'm slipping, I'm falling,"
Your love, GOD, took hold and held me fast.
When I was upset and beside myself,
You calmed me down and cheered me up.
Psalm 94:17-19 The Message

When times of chaos and contradiction take control, the Christian has resources that non-believers do not. In fact, the believer finds the greatest solace in the goodness of God. Despite the fickle offerings of the world ~ hopelessness, doubt, bitterness, defeat, those who claim Christ as Lord can always know the everlasting gifts of peace and comfort. In His arms, in His Grace, we find a goodness in this Holy Love that exceeds the difficult, that soothes the ache, that calms the anxious thought. This is The Source that will always delight my soul. ~dho

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. Psalm 94:19 NASB

Friday, September 04, 2009

Stay the Course

To cling always to God
and to the things of God ~
this must be our major effort,
this must be the road that the heart follows unswervingly.
~ John Cassian ~

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stand Firm!

. . . stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV

Sometimes we choose to be silent, to let circumstance rest in between concern and apathy, between grief and fear. Other times, we find value in giving voice to our thoughts and opinions. It is true that ~ sometimes ~ it's better to say nothing. However, when we are called to take a stand for God's Truth, and we simply look the other way, the prince of darkness counts it victory. Stand Firm! Put on the "full armor of Christ" (Ephesians 6:10-18), seek God's strength in the Word and pray for courage and endurance for the task. ~dho

Friday, August 07, 2009

Holy Words

I put the Scriptures above all the sayings of the fathers, angels, men and devils. Here I take my stand. ~ Martin Luther

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Real Rest

"True silence is the rest of the mind;
it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body,
nourishment and refreshment."
William Penn

The world is full of noise and busyness, all competing at the same time for the same mind! In the world there is little silence; there is not much true rest for the mind.

Jesus tells us, "Come to Me. Get away with Me and you'll recover you life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace ..." (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

Jesus lived the example of spending time in prayer ~ away from the crowds ~ alone with the Father. This is how He demonstrated real rest ~ rest for the mind, the body and the spirit ~ rest in the middle of chaos ~ rest in the presence of God ~ rest in the silence. Listen to the words of Jesus; seek Him in the silence ~ learn [His] unforced rhytms of grace. ~dho

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

God Loves Me!

The LORD says: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God . . . Because you are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you . . . I am with you. Isaiah 43:1-5 ESV

The words to the song, Dependence, by Jamie Slocum speaks directly to our hearts wherever life takes us - despite any circumstances. Knowing - truly knowing - God's faithful, unconditional, limitless love for us, brings undefinable, miraculous, grace-filled HOPE. Slocum sings:

Just to know, just to know that You love. . . Just to know that You're with me on all these roads I traveled on . . . I confess my dependence on You.

It is only in our dependence on God that we can have this assurance and hope! This dependence on God gives me hope to carry on. I encourage you to click on the link to this song and contemplate the message of hope! ~dho

Monday, June 01, 2009


Every word You give me is a miracle-word -
how could I help but obey?
Break open Your words, let the light shine out,
let ordinary people see the meaning.
Psalm 119:129-130 The Message

Between the skeptics and unbelievers, questions swirl around Christians. The world constantly queries the Bible and seeks to discredit it on many fronts. Sometimes, even Christians have difficulty explaining God's Living Word. Today I read words from Ray Stedman's The Power of His Presence that give a good description of the Old and New Testaments and why both are still relevant.

"The Old Testament is designed to be a picture book, illustrating with fascinating stories the spiritual truths presented in the New Testament. . . One of the most convincing proofs of the inspiration of the Bible is the facility with which the Spirit of God took simple history - facts as they were lived out day by day - and recorded them in such a way as to weave together a totally accurate pattern of the development of spiritual life. In other words, what took place physically in the Old Testament is a picture for believers today of what takes place spiritually in their own growth in grace."

The NASB uses these words in Psalm 119:130 ~ The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. When we spend time reading the Living Word, God's promises and spiritual truths are unfolded by the Spirit. Through studying the Scriptures, we begin to understand more about the character of God and His purposes for us.

Gracious LORD, I come to the altar shouting
praise for all the blessings in my life. You are
the Light that writes the words of my soul-song.
It is You that gives my heart its desires.
Faithful Father, I am God-strong; my blessings
abundantly exceed my needs. Creator, gather
the details of my life, take Your holy threads and
weave a tapestry of Your design. You transcend
all circumstances, expose all evil, reveal all love
but never measure Grace. I am God-strengthened!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lent ~ Easter Sunday ~ 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)

In 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

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lent ~ Waiting!

And He departed from our sight that we might return to our heart, and there find Him. For He departed, and behold, He is here. Augustine

The Sabbath began at sundown on Friday, and this one even more special as it was the beginning of Passover. Passover was celebrated by the Jews to recall the time the plague of death 'passed over' their homes as they were delivered from Egypt. To prevent having the first born males die, they were to take the blood of the sacrificed lamb and place it on the door frame of the house. (Exodus 12/complete text) But this particular Passover the Lamb of God had been sacrificed, Christ's blood shed for all.

Read John 19:38-42

And so, because it was the day of preparation before the Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Just before sundown Friday, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, secret disciples of Jesus, asked Pilate for Jesus' body, quickly prepared the body and carefully placed Him in the tomb. Fearing the Jewish leaders, these members of the Jewish high council had kept their following of Jesus a secret until now. And Jesus' body lay in the tomb as Passover began.

There was little written about that Saturday - the Jewish Sabbath that fell between the crucifixion on Friday and the resurrection on Sunday. There would have been no work, only time for worship and rest. For those who mourned Jesus' death, there was much time for reflection of recent events, remembering of times shared, and recollections of countless miracles. They did not understand what had happened. They waited.

consider this!
  • What risks did Joseph and Nicodemus take?
  • What thoughts might the disciples have had during this time?
  • Does Jesus live within your heart? If yes, do you ever keep your faith a secret?

Lord ~ What happens when the world denies You, and I keep silent? What happens when the world mocks You, and I turn away? You must weep at my selfish response. What happens when You offer hope that is eternal, and I do not share this Good News? What happens when You love with amazing grace, and I do not share this forgiveness? You must weep at my casual faith. Forgive me when weakness wins the battle inside my soul. In these times of struggle, I call to You and always find You waiting for me. Amen. ~dho

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lent ~ Good Friday ~ "Crucify"

We have seen what we are not, and what God wants us to be, but are we willing to be battered into the shape of the vision to be used by God? The beatings will always come in the most common, everyday ways and through common, everyday people. Oswald Chambers from My Utmost for His Highest

The account of the trial and crucifixion of Christ is in all the Gospels. Like reading the Christmas story in Luke each year, this is the day we remember, listen to or read ourselves the recorded history of Jesus' last hours on earth. Unlike the Christmas story, this one is harder to hear. Full of partial truths and truths ignored, betrayals and beatings, cowards and cynics, guilt and innocence, the story lets us walk the Via Dolorosa with Jesus and the crowd as we call, "Crucify! Crucify!"

Read John 18:28-19:42

Jesus fulfills the Scripture, lives God's Plan of salvation for us, willingly and obediently in detail. He is crucified between two thieves, a picture of disgrace and disillusionment for those who doubt Him, those who believe in Him, those who love Him. And the crowd? From Hallelujah! to Crucify! in a week's time, the crowd scatters and scorns with uncertainty. We stand in the crowd, both watching and wondering, fickle and frightened, confused and concerned.

Today, we are still standing in the crowd - we are the everyday people. We either endure the everyday beatings or participate in them. We either determine our worth and applaud our own plans, or we confess our sins and need for Grace. We either seek the world's approval or humbly accept God's plan. We are arrogant or obedient, either rolling the dice for a piece of Jesus or embracing the completeness of Perfect Love. We are the everyday reasons that Jesus is broken bread and poured out wine.

consider this!
  • Why did the Jewish leaders say they wanted Jesus put to death?
  • Did Pilate find Jesus guilty?
  • Matthew 27:35-44; Mark 15:25-32; Luke 23:32-43; John 19:18-27: These are the Gospel's accounts of Jesus being placed on the cross. List all the people around the cross. What names are missing from the list that you would have expected?

Holy Father ~ My heart comes to the foot of the cross and recognizes Jesus as the Son of the Most High, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. I kneel and bow and weep that my sins nail Him to the cross, place the crown of thorns on His head, mock Him and reject Him. And still, He loves me more than I can understand. He willingly is battered and endures the beatings for me, for all of us. Forgiveness is mine. Grace reigns. Help me seek Your vision for my life. Let me endure what I must to honor You, to give You glory. Holy! Holy! Holy! You are Lord! Amen. ~dho

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Lent ~ Betrayal and Intercession

"You will know which one to arrest when I go over and give him the kiss of greeting." Judas Iscariot (Matthew 29:49 NLT)

Betrayal robs more than loyalty; it robs the soul. Judas, one of the twelve disciples, one of the inner circle of Jesus, accepts thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Afterwards, disgraced and without reconciliation, Judas takes his own life. His actions demonstrate a lack of sincere commitment to Jesus. Judas, the pretender.

"I swear by God, I don't know this man you're talking about." Peter, the disciple of Christ
(Mark 14:71 NLT)

As Jesus gathers His disciples together one last time, He tells them that they would all desert Him. Peter's loyalty disagrees, "Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will." (Mark 14:29) But just as Jesus predictes - three times Peter denies knowing Christ. When he realizes he has betrayed his own vow, Peter breaks down and cries. Later, after the resurrection, Jesus asks Peter three times, "Do you love Me?" Peter responds each time, "Yes, Lord, I love You!" Jesus restores Peter, tells him, "Follow Me." Peter becomes the first great leader of the early church. Peter, the rock.

Read John 17

consider this!
  • Meditate on this beautiful prayer that Jesus prayed. For whom was He praying?
  • This prayer is called the "High Priestly Prayer." Why do you think it is called that?
  • Do you ask Jesus to intercede for you?

Eternal Intercessor ~ My prayers rise to You, full of wordless gratitude for undeserved grace. Forgive me when I betray You in my deeds and with my words. Sin is the easier choice. But You have restored me with Amazing Grace. You call, "Follow Me!" I reply, "Lord, I love You!" Amen. ~dho

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Lent ~ Believing or Not

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 like me 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

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Lent ~ Listening to the Father

Jesus' obedience means a total, fearless listening to His loving Father. . . We will never understand the full meaning of Jesus' richly varied ministry unless we see how the many things are rooted in the one thing: listening to the Father in the intimacy of perfect love.
Henri Nouwen from Show Me the Way (pg.112-113)

Time after time we find Jesus alone praying to the Father. When Jesus predicts His death on the cross to the crowd, He again seeks the Father's power. Nouwen writes, "This inexhaustible love between the Father and the Son includes and yet transcends all forms of love known to us." God is the Source of everything for Jesus ~ power, direction and love. Jesus seeks the Father in all things; He listens to the Father in the intimacy of perfect love.

Read John 12:27-36

"Father, glorify Your name."
Then a voice came from heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again." John 12:28

Jesus tells the crowd that God has spoken for your sake. There are questions and uncertainties about what it all means. Jesus wants them to understand that He is the Christ, the Messiah. He declares himself Light, calling them to believe and become sons of light. Jesus longs for those in the crowd who follow Him to become a community. Today, Jesus still desires for Believers to join together, to be an intimate community that worships and seeks the Father for all things. How do we achieve such unity and intimacy? By listening to the Father.

consider this!
  • What did the people say they heard when a voice came from heaven?
  • How did Jesus describe His death? Did the people understand?
  • When do you go to the Father? Do you listen for His reply?

Father of Light ~ You fill my darkness with fireworks of possibilities and wonders that exceed my imagination. You call me to share this light with others. I am listening more and more to Your whispers and the Spirit's promptings. I want to be obedient to Your best for me. Forgive me when I settle for good enough. Amen. ~dho

Monday, April 06, 2009

Lent ~ The Crowd

Meister Eckhart (1260-1327): The temple God wants to be master of is the human soul, which he created and fashioned just like himself. We read that God said, “Let us make man in our own image.” . . . He made each soul so much like himself that nothing else in heaven or on earth resembles him as much. . . God wants the temple to be pure, so pure that nothing should dwell there except he himself. And that is the reason why he is so pleased when we really prepare our souls for him.

A growing crowd had followed Jesus these last weeks, watching and testifying to what they had witnessed ~ Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, His many miracles of healing, His parables and teachings. The religious rulers were threatened, fearing the crowd was beginning to follow Jesus, struggling with supernatural possibility and personal pride.

Read John 12:17-19

The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, "You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him."
John 12:19 NKJV

The crowd, like the Pharisees, came with their own agendas. Some caught up in the excitement of the moment, some looking for something extraordinary and some skeptical but curious. The Pharisees thought the crowd was foolish, but wanted to find something to discredit Jesus' popularity. We are sometimes the crowd ~ watching, wondering, looking for more! We are sometimes like the Pharisees ~ cynical, doubting, expecting less!

consider this!
  • Picture yourself in the crowd. Who are you? What do you expect from Jesus?
  • Consider yourself a Pharisee. What rules would you enforce? What questions do you ask?
  • How are you preparing your soul for the living Christ?

Holy Father ~ Prepare my soul for the journey it must take. Help me step away from the crowd to be with You, to listen for You, to feel You near. Take my cynicism and make it compassion. Take my doubt and make it trust. Take my soul to Your high places of blessing. Amen. ~dho

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Lent ~ Palm Sunday

A life of complete faith propels one to live not by his own ideas, impulses, or abilities, but by the leadings of the Spirit that have much the same ebb and flow and unpredictability that wind and waves do."
John Haughey

Those who watched for the Messiah, their King, anticipated much more pomp and circumstance, grandeur and power. They thought the Messiah would rule on earth. Instead, God's plan called for Jesus to enter Jerusalem on a donkey with His disciples following but not understanding. Often times God's plans for us come in unpredictable ways, like on a donkey, and we do not understand at the time.

Read John 12:12-16

"Fear not daughter of Zion;
Behold, your King is coming,
Sitting on a donkey's colt." John 12:15 NKJV

This prophesy was foretold by Zechariah but those looking for the Messiah must have forgotten. They did not recognize the Messiah riding a donkey into Jerusalem while the crowds waved palm branches shouting Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! The King of Israel. Like the Jews, sometimes we don't recognize Jesus ~ when He wears the tattered clothes of a beggar or the tears of an abused child or the hunger of a distant land or the loneliness of an empty life. Like the disciples, we don't always understand in the disappointment or the crisis or during the parade. Only afterwards, do we recognize Jesus and the Providence and Grace of a loving God.

consider this!
  • The crowd was shouting words from a Psalm. Read Psalm 118 and find the words.
  • When DID the disciples understand?
  • As you read the verses, imagine yourself standing in the crowd. How might you react?

Faithful Father ~ Your Wisdom exceeds my best ideas. My heart's desire is that You find me faithful. Help me see You in all things. Amen. ~dho

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Lent ~ Anointed and Prepared

For God himself works in our souls, in their deepest depths, taking increasing control as we are progressively willing to be prepared for His wonder.
Thomas Kelly from Devotional Classics by Foster/Smith (pg.177)

During these weeks of Lent, the intention is to be a time of reflection, a time for the soul to be prepared to once again to consider the sacrifice of the Perfect Lamb for sinners, imperfect in every way. This is not to suggest that the Easter Season is the only time for reflection or study; certainly it is not, rather it can be a time of spiritual renewal. As the last week approaches and the familiar story unfolds, be prepared to listen, be prepared for His wonder.

Read John 12:1-8

But Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial."
John 12:7 NKJV

As you read this account of Mary's anointing Jesus feet with expensive perfume, consider the extravagance of her gesture. Commentaries tell us this expensive perfume equals a year's wages. Mary receives criticism from one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot. Jesus intercedes, once again reminding that He will not be with them much longer. Mary's soul somehow understood the gravity of the time at hand. She abandons the expected role, steps outside the boundaries. Mary sensed the wonder of Jesus and the house was filled with the fragrance of perfume.

consider this!

  • List all those Scripture mentions as being present at this dinner.
  • What is your reaction to Judas' comment?
  • Now, consider the extravagance of Jesus love.

Lord ~ In Your presence I find unspoken joy, wordless praise, endless thanksgiving. You draw me to Perfect Love, and I long for more. Prepare my heart and mind and soul as I once again walk the dusty roads up to Jerusalem, stand in the crowds watching, listen to the mocking, see the Body broken for me, contemplate the cross, find the empty tomb. Amen. ~ dho

Friday, April 03, 2009

Lent ~ Spiritual Sight

For the grateful man knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference. Thomas Merton from Thoughts in Solitude (pg.33)

Jesus hears about the Pharisees throwing the formerly-blind beggar out of the synagogue. He finds the man and asks, "Do You believe in the Son of Man?" The man does not recognize Jesus as he was blind when they previously met. Jesus invites this man to become part of the Kingdom. With a desire to know Jesus, He accepts. His roadside experience begins his change with a physical healing, but the real transformation ~ the spiritual sight ~ happens on the inside.

Read John 9: 35-41

Then Jesus told him, "I have come to judge the world, I have come to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind. John 9:39 NLT

The Pharisees present are indignant that Jesus would suggest they are spiritually blind! And once again, we find ourselves dressed as a Pharisee. Yes, we believers can be spiritually blind ~ when we choose our desires instead of being obedient to God's will, when we justify our busyness inside the church instead of reaching outside the church walls into the community, when we rationalize our sins instead of acknowledging that the world has us in its grips. It is only through Jesus that we can overcome spiritual blindness!

consider this!
  • Read verse 35; what gives you comfort?
  • Explain who these two groups of people are that Jesus refers to as "the blind" and "those who think they see."
  • What experience with God makes you grateful?
God of Might and Mercy ~ You find us, care for us, love us. Your compassion exceeds our need, heals our wounds, offers us tenderness. Our response to You can be one of humility and gratitude or self-righteousness and self-assurance. Forgive my blindness, my egocentric bows to the world's applause. It is You, and You alone, I long to see clearly. Amen. ~dho

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Lent ~ Holy Surprises!

When we are truly open, we will be surprised by something in the encounter. And that surprise - that unique presence of God - can be called . . . holiness.
Robert J. Wicks from Living Simply in an Anxious World (pg. 51)

The Pharisees continue to question the beggar, "This man who opened your eyes - who do you say he is?" This miracle has caused much controversy and questioning, much examination and concern. Even the man's parents must face the inquisitors. We can identify with this man and his parents if we are willing to stand up and share our experience with Jesus. There will always be those who question and doubt.

Read John 9:17-34

[The beggar responds] "I don't know whether he is a sinner . . . but I do know this: I was blind, and now I can see!" John 9:25 NLT

When we encounter the Living Christ, we are changed from the inside; we are transformed. Christ puts a robe of righteousness around our shoulders and welcomes us into the family. Do we suddenly have all the answers? No and we never will have all the answers. As followers of Christ our response must be to simply tell our faith-story.

consider this!
  • Why was it important that the Pharisees shed doubt on the beggar's healing?
  • Remember a time when your faith was challenged. What did you say or do?
  • Tell your faith-story ~ it is the most meaningful tool for sharing the Gospel you have.

Holy One ~ The world denies You, attempts to minimize Your power. Sometimes the task to tell my story seems daunting ~ does MY story really matter, isn't it God's story I should tell? what if they mock me? what if they do not listen? Make my faith bold enough to stand and share my own God-story with another. Make me humble in the telling of Your Faithfulness and Grace. Amen. ~dho

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Lent ~ Self-righteous Divisions

The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation. Charles Spurgeon

The Pharisees were an influential religious authority in Judaism. They enforced the Jewish laws. Knowledgeable and well-versed in the Scriptures, the Pharisees quoted the law and prided themselves on living the law. In some ways, we who attend church and Bible studies, teach Sunday School, serve on church committees and sing in the choir can act the same as the Pharisees. We, too, can be self-righteous in our actions to those we think are less religious than we are.

Read John 9:13-16

Some of the Pharisees said, "This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath." Others said, "But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?" So there was deep division of opinion among them. John 9:16 NLT

Churches and religious organizations and Christians struggle with the same issues as the Pharisees. In our desire to represent God to the world, we create a deep division between ordinary sinners and religious sinners. There is none. Our pride gets in the way and often can be a wedge instead of a lever; we hinder instead of encourage. In our disagreements, we plod on in our 'certainty' without love or compassion or gentleness. How like the Pharisees we can be!

consider this!
  • What was the Sabbath? To what law were the Pharisees referring?
  • Give an example of a deep division in a religious group today.
  • How do you know Jesus is from God? Give a Scripture to support your statement.

Lord ~ Forgive me when I find more delight in knowing about You than in 'knowing You". Give me eyes to see my neighbors as You see me ~ a sinner in need of grace. Amen. ~dho

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lent ~ Delightful Giving

God loves us; not because we are loveable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but because He delights to give. C.S. Lewis

How like the blind beggar we are, sitting beside the road with life moving passed us every day. So often we are 'blind' to the opportunities to serve, the weariness of others, even the prayers offered for us! We miss God's goodness all around us, the gestures of love by strangers and friends; we miss the loneliness of those we know.

Read John 9:8-12

"How then were your eyes opened?" they demanded.
[The beggar] replied, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see." John 9:10-11

When God finds us, He offers us love; He delights to give us unconditional love. If we listen to Him and follow His instructions, our eyes are opened to His goodness and grace, to the needs around us, to the Spirit's leading. As we respond in faith, we find our hearts grow more compassionate, more loving, more giving ~ more like Him.

consider this!
  • What were the responses of those who knew the blind beggar?
  • How is the beggar's life changed?
  • Like the crowd, do you ever ask, "Where is [Jesus]?"

Immanuel ~ God with us ~ You are with us even when we do not notice. You embrace us even when we feel unworthy. You carry us when we cannot move. You open our eyes to new possibilities. Thank You for more! Amen. ~dho

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lent ~ Questions

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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

5th Sunday in Lent ~ Telling the Truth

We must never lose our capacity to be amazed by grace.
RC Sproul from The Holiness of God

In the following Scripture verses, Jesus' identity is questioned. Jesus responds to His accusers revealing His Divinity. Jesus ~ fully man ~ stands before those who doubt His true identity, and Jesus ~ being fully God ~ states His divine nature. The crowd's response ~ At this, they picked up stones to stone him. . .

Read John 8:48-59

Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."
John 8:58 NKJV

As believers, we too find ourselves attacked by accusers, by Satan himself, by those who doubt. We must be ready to stand firm and glorify God, tell our faith-story to those who will listen. Our credibility may be questioned by the crowd, but God searches every heart. Our testimony must give Glory to I AM. God will handle everything else.

consider this!
  • In John 8:58, what was Jesus really saying?
  • Read Exodus 3:6,14; who is I AM?
  • From these OT and NT Scriptures, describe the character of God.

Yahweh ~ You are I AM, the beginning and the end; yet there is no ending of Your presence or power or provision. You call me, teach me, strengthen me. Your Grace is wordless and pours over me, makes me new again. It is You that I worship and praise. Embraced by Perfect Love, I will tell Your story! Amen. ~dho

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lent ~Hear What God Says

The alternate beats of the Christian heart are receptivity and response - receptivity from God and response in work from us.
E. Stanley Jones from "The Habit of Reading the Bible Daily" as found in Devotional Classics edited by Foster and Smith

Christ came to earth from the Father with the desire to offer Perfect Love for every person. God revealed Himself to the world through Christ; now, He reveals Himself to us through the Word. We need to spend time reading the Scriptures. Let us ask ourselves How much time do I spend with God every day?

Read John 8:39-47
[Jesus said] . . . I have not come on my own; but [the Father] sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. John 8:42-43 NIV

If we do not understand God's message, do not find God's plan revealed for our lives, it is because we are not seeking Him. The father of lies speaks and shouts, tempts and taunts, distracts and discourages us. If we belong to God, we will listen for Truth. Whose messages do you hear the loudest?

consider this!
  • Reading the verses above, contrast Jesus, Son of God, with Satan, father of lies.
  • If spending time in God's Word is the way we understand more about God, how will you commit to doing this?
  • What is the "language" of Jesus? Is it a foreign language to you?

Father of Light ~ I know that spending time with You is essential in growing an intimate relationship. The father of lies tries to capture my time, wrestles with my commitment, delights when I fail. He calls that time unnecessary Bible study, "homework," a waste of time. He convinces me that what the world calls IMPORTANT should be my priorities. Cleanse this heart; make it holy. Strengthen me; encourage me. I want to speak the same language as You. Amen. ~dho

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lent ~ Jesus Tells God's Children

It is the simple truth that holds you together in the most complex situations. Not simplistic, but simple. The profound truth that the Bible gives us is like a warm blanket wrapped around us on a cold night. Charles R. Swindoll

Scripture tells us that Jesus is the truth that will set you free. This Truth is offered as Grace. God's love is greater than we can ever understand, and He delights in offering us freedom and eternal life. Through Jesus we are ransomed, rescued and reconciled. Only Truth can do this.

Read John 8:31-38
[Jesus says] So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free. Yes, I realize that . . . some of you are trying to kill me because my message does not find a place in your hearts. John 8:36-37 NLT

Truth must dwell in our hearts, must become part of who we are, must be evidenced in our lives - both in word and deed. Satan champions the weak and cheers the arrogant. Daily, believers find themselves taunted by the Deceiver, tricked by the Accuser. Only Truth can overpower evil.

consider this!
  • In verse 32, what is the "truth" Jesus references?
  • What are the consequences of sin? Find a Scripture to support this.
  • Does the world find Jesus' message in my heart?

Jesus ~ You are Perfect Truth that paid the price for my sins, finds me where I am, longs for a relationship with me. When the world captures my attention and lures me with its shiny gimmicks, my heart feels the emptiness. You give me the freedom to rise above, to soar on eagle's wings. Forgive my care-less heart. Amen. ~dho

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lent ~ Christ is the Truth

We cannot claim to know Christ and to honor Him if we refuse the path He calls us to follow. Erwin Raphael McManus from The Barbarian Way (pg. 140)

Surrounded by words and voices that demand recognition, we hear many messages. We must listen and discern which ones are Truth. Many well-known celebrities promote literary works that represent partial truths yet greatly influence people. In the quest for intellectual pursuits, we compromise, we rationalize, we doubt. How can we know what is false and what is Truth?

Read 2 John 1:9-11

Anyone who gets so progressive in his thinking that he walks out on the teaching of Christ, walks out on God. . . 2 John 1:9 The Message

Scripture warns that there will be false teaching. In our faithfulness to God, we must spend time in the Living Word, praying to the Holy One, listening for the Spirit of Truth. It is our journey with Christ ~ learning to depend on Him ~ that gives us the strength and wisdom to know what is false and what is Truth. We must trust in Christ.

consider this!
  • Think of at least 3 examples of "false teaching" today.
  • Why are partial truths dangerous?
  • How dependent are you on Christ for wisdom?

Jesus ~ As we study about You, it is easy to find the many ways evil tried to attack You and Your ministry. As followers of You, we are often taunted by the evil one. Chaos and distractions and doubt come from the one who pursues us with false teachings. But You encourage us, shepherd us, grace us into Truth with love. Amen. ~dho

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lent ~ Rewards

Be with me in my silence and my speech, in my haste and in my leisure, in company and in solitude, in the freshness of morning and in the weariness of the evening; and give me grace at all times to rejoice in Thy mysterious companionship. John Baille

Loyalty is not valued much in the world today. Both employees and employers make the choices that suite them best, give them the best financial outcomes. Rarely do we read of the reverse. In decades past, loyalty was respected. Our loyalty to God waivers as we weigh possibility. What effect does this have on our future?

Read 2 John 1:7-8

Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 2 John 1:8 ESV

God never changes. Neither does His Faithfulness to His children. In our faithfulness to growing a deeper, more intimate relationship with God, we find the desire to love Him and serve Him grows exponentially. God's Promise to all believers is that we will be awarded our earned Service Rewards in Heaven. The more like Jesus we love each other, the greater our rewards.

consider this!
  • Describe a time you were deceived by a partial truth.
  • Read Romans 6:20-23. How does this help you understand God's rewards?
  • How are your loyalty reward points looking?

God of mercy, God of grace ~ You give to us in every way, never leaving us, never turning from us, never forgetting Your promises. We do just the opposite ~ taking but not sharing, searching but not finding satisfaction, remembering difficulty but forgetting Your goodness. We are humbled that You are a loyal companion to us ~ faithful and true. Amen. ~dho

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lent ~ Love Means . . .

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

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lent ~ Truth and Love

Grace is . . . a burst of light in a room where everyone forgot it was dark. David Jeremiah from Captured by Grace (pg. 12)

Jesus is "Truth" and "Love" personified. Because of who Christ is, we are redeemed and reconciled to the Father through Truth and Love, through Christ. This Absolute Truth and Divine Love comes to us freely and embraces us fully.

Read 2 John 1:1-3

. . . Christ . . . be with us who live in truth and love. 2 John 1:3 NLT

When we live in truth and love, it is because Grace pours over us. How easily this is taken for granted! We forget about Grace, forget about the Source of Grace, forget that we live in a world of darkness. Christ never forgets us, especially in the darkness. Christ is a burst of light!

consider this!
  • What "truth" does the Scripture reference?
  • Am I aware that Christ abides with me?
  • Do I really live in truth and love?

Jesus ~ Undeserved Grace pour over me bringing me into the Light Everlasting. You abide with me every moment. Amen. ~dho

Sunday, March 22, 2009

4th Sunday of Lent ~ Guarded By Grace

Humanity is in the grip of an evil power, and we are helpless to free ourselves from bondage to that power by our own strength. The only one who can deliver us from it is Jesus Christ.
Ray Stedman from Spiritual Warfare (pg.41)

The power of evil is stronger than we are but not stronger than God. In fact, Scripture reminds us that God is greater than any power in the world. Unfortunately, all too often, we try to overcome evil by our own strength. We will always fail.

Read 1 John 5:21

Little children, guard yourselves from idols. NASB

Anything that takes God's place in our hearts is an idol. We comfort ourselves by saying that these "idols" are just the golden calf's of the Old Testament. Yet, the truth is ANYTHING that we allow to mean more to us than God is our idol. ANYTHING!

consider this!
  • What idols do I worship?
  • How do I plan to "guard" my heart from these idols?
  • Am I willing to place Jesus Christ at the center of my life?

Lord ~ I go along without thought to idols, thinking my gestures of love and service in Your name are enough. When I place time in the Living Word last in the day, when I place my desires ahead of another's needs, when I spend Your offering on tokens that will not bring me joy, when I take credit for the goodness and success that comes my way ~ I place my idols BEFORE You. Forgive my shallow, selfish ways. Guard my heart from the evil one. Guard me from myself. Amen. ~dho

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lent ~ Children Of God

. . . it is not in daily sinning that the secret of humility is found, but rather in the position of dependence upon the grace of God.
Andrew Murray from Humility (pg. 71)

The commentary in the Life Application Bible reminds: There is no middle ground; people either belong to God and obey Him, or they live under Satan's control. As children of God, we choose to obey the Father; as disobedient children, we follow the evil one. Our sinful nature threatens the desire for obedience. Grace redeems us.

Read 1 John 5:16-20

We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the power and control of the evil one. 1 John 5:19 NLT

These verses compare our sinful nature, our inability to be sin-free, with the freedom of choice to deny Christ or apostasy. The Believer's confession of sins and desire to serve God brings forgiveness; however, the world denies Christ as Redeemer and follows Satan. Despite what the world would have us believe, evil is alive and active and is seeking those who would choose darkness and disobedience over Light and Grace.

consider this!

  • Contrast "darkness" and "disobedience" with "light" and "obedience"

  • Using a dictionary, define "apostasy"

  • Whose child are you?
Father of Light ~ When my doubts try to conquer, send the Light! When darkness seems easier, send the Light! When disorder becomes routine, send the Light! When the Destroyer struggles to claim me, send the Light! Light and Grace, shine on me! Amen. ~dho

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lent ~ Certainty in Christ

As fruit is the great proof of the true relation to Christ, so prayer is the proof of our relation to the Father. A fruitful abiding in the Son and prevailing prayer to the Father are the two great factors in the true Christian life.
Andrew Murray from The True Vine (pg. 143)

God's Promise of Eternal Life through Jesus is certain, not just a hope but a truth. On this promise we can stand; we can know our future. And how will we demonstrate our certainty?

Read 1 John 5:13-15

And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him. 1 John 5:15 ESV

Murray suggests that prayer is the proof of our certainty. Because we know Christ, we come to Him in prayer; we know that He hears our prayers. God knows our hearts before we even speak, but He desires that we come to Him in worship and praise, with our needs and concerns. As we listen for His guidance in our lives, seek His wisdom for our actions, spend time with Him growing a more intimate relationship, we can be certain that He will respond to us.

consider this!

  • Where is the certainty of life?
  • Do you KNOW Christ?
  • If "fruitful abiding" and "prevailing prayer" mark the Christian life, what proof are you offering of your certainty?

Spirit of Truth ~ Take the noise of the world away. In the moments of quiet, speak the truth of God to me. My prayers rise to the Love Most High ~ Your whispers return to me full of the certainty that Christ gives. Amen. ~dho

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lent ~ Life, A Choice

Either God is right or the world is right. It cannot be both. . . Christianity is not merely a change in outward actions of a bit higher moral or ethical level. Christianity is a revolutionary change of government that results in a radical change in behavior.
Ray Stedman from The Power of His Presence

God presents the truth, then gives us a choice ~ Him or the world. Our choice of Christ goes beyond a verbal confession. After our words, our behavior defines us. As we seek a deeper relationship with God, our lives will evidence our testimony that we choose life!

Read 1 John 5:11-12

This is the testimony in essence: God gave us eternal life; the life is in His Son. So, whoever has the Son, has life; whoever rejects the Son, rejects life. The Message

consider this!
  • When I survey my behavior, does it more often reflect the world or Christ?
  • Describe worldly behavior.
  • What is my testimony?

God ~ Goodness and Grace are offered to me! Every day I am surrounded by the world but embraced by You. I choose Christ! I choose Life! As You draw near to me, I find a peace the world will never give. Amen. ~dho

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lent ~ God's Testimony

God is love. His whole nature and perfection is love . . . Christ is the Son of God's love, the bearer, the revealer, the communicator of that love. . . The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of love. . . Full salvation is perfect love.
Andrew Murray from The True Vine (pg. 115)

In this world we rely on the testimony of witnesses when seeking to discover the truth. Courts and judges listen intently to these accounts. The Bible also provides us with a record of holy testimony regarding Jesus.

Read 1 John 5:6-10

And all the while the Spirit is confirming the truth, the reality of God's presence at Jesus' baptism and crucifixion. bringing those occasions alive for us. A triple testimony: the Spirit, the Baptism, the Crucifixion. And all three in perfect agreement.
1 John 5:6-8 The Message

Christ is declared the Beloved Son of God, confirmed by the Spirit. God's testimony is further evidenced by Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. This is Perfect Love offered as full salvation ~ for each of us.

consider this!
  • Read Galatians 4:3-7.
  • What does "slaves to the spiritual powers" mean?
  • What defines us as "His child"?
  • What does my testimony say about Christ?

Father, Son and Holy Spirit ~ Guard my heart from the powers of the world that pursue me. Forgive me when my actions do not bear witness to the holiness of Christ. Thank You for full salvation. Amen. ~ dho

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lent ~ Victory Through Jesus

Though the devil would have us believe he is invincible, his cause has already been doomed by the cross.
Ray Stedman from Spiritual Warfare (pg.50)

There are those who do not believe in "evil" or "the devil" or "Satan" even though the Bible speaks of it many times. There are those who do not believe that Jesus came to earth ~ fully human and fully God. There are those who do not believe Jesus is the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures. Does what we believe about Jesus really matter?

Read 1 John 5:4-5

And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:5 NLT

Christ died on the cross for every one's sins ~ all our acts of disobedience nailed Him there. Christ redeems all who believe ~ through His resurrection from the dead three days after the crucifixion, Grace embraces us. Satan and his spirit-followers would have you discount this, even though it is recorded in the Holy Scriptures. Only Perfect Love can offer Grace to us. The specifics about Jesus do matter. They carry an eternal significance!

consider this!
  • Using any translation of the Bible, find at least 3 references to evil
  • Find at least 3 passages in the Scriptures that reference "trust"
  • Is Jesus Christ ~ the Messiah ~ the Son of God ~ the Living Word?

Lord ~ I see evil in the world around me and experience the drama of evil in my life. Satan only offers disorder and chaos and destruction. Jesus, You give my soul peace that I cannot explain. You offer what the world cannot ~ eternal life. I am trusting You to lead me through the darkness into the light along this earthly journey. Amen. ~dho

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lent ~ Disobedience

The obedience that keeps His commandments becomes the outward expression of our love for God. Andrew Murray from A Life of Obedience

Disobedience started all our problems. In the Garden, God created everything that any of us could ever need. All He asked was that we obey one thing ~ not to eat from the Tree of Life. One person's disobedience ended the completeness of Eden.

Read 1 John 5:1-3

Loving God means keeping His commandments . . . 1 John 5:3 NLT

"Christ overcame disobedience and gives us the power to replace ours with His obedience." (Murray, Life of Obedience pg.25) Believers are to strive for a life of true obedience to God, but because of Adam's disobedience human kind struggles with sin. Christ's obedience to the Father's will, His obedience to the Cross, becomes our path to righteousness. This is the way God loves.

consider this!

  • Who is Jesus Christ?
  • What is the root of sin?
  • Can you show love to others without obedience to Christ?

Father ~ I know that without You sin rules. Obedience is a choice that I can make because Christ was obedient to the cross. I desire to be obedient to Your will for me. Amen. ~ dho

Sunday, March 15, 2009

3rd Sunday in Lent ~ Fruitful Living

The fruit of righteousness is that fruit that is exercised in us by the Holy Spirit.
R.C. Sproul from The Holiness of God

Without God, we do not have faith; we cannot love. God IS love, and because He loves us, we can know love. Christians are to demonstrate the fruit of His love to others. When we call ourselves His children but do not love, we deceive each other.

Read 1 John 4:19-21

We love because He first loved us . . . Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:19,21 NIV

The commentary in the Student Bible says John "uses the word love 35 times" in this letter. His themes are "simple themes - light, truth, life, love" and "[i]n every case, he shows God as the source of power in the Christian life." When we justify our broken relationships ~ our selfishness, our self-reliance, our self-righteousness ~ we are attempting to be our own source of power. Every time, we will fail. Our lives can only be fruitful because the Holy Spirit dwells in us. This is the evidence of righteousness. This is holiness. This is the Living Word evidenced through us. This is the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

consider this!
  • Can the law make us love?
  • What fruits of the Spirit are missing from my life?

Love Most High ~ Such generous Love and Mercy flows from You. You are the Source of goodness and grace, love and power, life and death. In You I can find all things good. You are Holy and Righteous. Teach me how to grow my life more like yours. Amen. ~dho

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lent ~ Fearless Love

What Jesus do you serve? Todd Agnew

In Agnew's song, he asks us What Jesus do you serve? Do we serve the Jesus of the stained glass church or the One that walks among the broken? It's a good question. More often than not, most of us find our comfort zone of service safe within the walls of the church. Jesus, however, almost always was found outside the Temple, among the sick, the needing ones.

Read 1 John 4:17-18

. . . in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. . . 1 John 4:17-18 NIV

Christians are called to step out into the world, be the Christ-light for others. We are called to stand among the broken, be as Christ to others. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, be a witness for Christ to the lost. Yes, there are hurting, wounded and lost people within the walls of the church; however, the Spirt leads us outside to spead His Light and Love to many more. Many times it is fear that holds us back, gives us pause. These verses tell us that God's Love gives us confindence on the day of judgement. Have you demonstrated that confidence to anyone lately? Have you offered the same Assurance to someone broken?

consider this!
  • What does "love is made complete" mean?
  • When is this "day of judgement"?
  • Does your "fear" clash with "perfect love"?

Jesus ~ You are the Lover of my soul. When the time comes that I stand before you face-to-face, I will find amazing grace. In these days before that time, my heart searches for new ways to reach out ~ in the name of Jesus ~ the way You love. Amen. ~ dho

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lent ~ Trust the Love

Trust God for the unexpected, and let him surprise you by doing the unexplainable.

No matter the length of study time or depth of study, our human minds cannot grasp the greatness of God. Scripture tells us He is greater than anything in this world. The prophet Jeremiah records God's message to him: Call to Me and I will answer you. I'll tell you marvelous and wonderful things that you could never figure out on your own (Jeremiah 33:3 The Message). Even though we seek Him ~ in all ways ~ we can never fully understand God.

Read 1 John 4:13-16

. . . Jesus is God's Son . . . we've embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God. 1 John 4:15-16 The Message

Reading these verses reminds us of just how loved we are. John's words to believers gives us a way to evaluate our behavior, to help us identify how closely we walk with God. We are to believe, to confess, to live steadily and deeply in Him and to tell others that Jesus has redeemed us, giving us eternal life. We should embrace Jesus ~ heart and soul.

consider this!
  • What is the proof God gives believers of His Presence?
  • When life is uncertain, what is the believer's certainty?
  • Do I fully embrace God's generous Love?

Jesus ~ You lived God's Love when You allowed the world to hammer the nails! You live God's Love now as our Eternal Intercessor. You will live God's Love when You return for His children. I want to wholeheartedly embrace this Divine Love and share You with others. Amen. ~dho

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lent ~ Too Full

Your emptiness accepted creates a space for God in your life. When you embrace that emptiness, God can begin to fill you. God has a plan for you.
Macrina Wiederkehr from A Tree Full of Angels

We live life so fully, always busy, that we often find ourselves too full ~ with no room left for God. Busyness can keep us from developing an intimate relationship with the Lord. To lay down the world ~ television, newspapers, work, activities ~ and sometimes even church activities is necessary to create time and space for God. Sadly, that is the way we usually go about it - an after thought.

Read 1 John 4:11-12

. . . if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and His love becomes complete in us - perfect love! 1 John 4:12 The Message

What a beautiful thought ~ Perfect Love is complete in us! The Holy Spirit needs a place to work and when our lives are too full, there is little room for His Presence.

consider this!
  • How does God reveal His Love to me?
  • Can God offer Perfect Love to others through me?
  • How much space does my life create for God?

Father ~ Come and dwell in me. It is time to clean house, throw out unnecessary clutter that robs my soul of time with You. Open hands and open ears, I ask You to fill me with holiness, speak to me with wisdom. Make me complete in You. Amen. ~ dho

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lent ~ Live Eternally Grateful

. . . [God] makes us passionately and spiritually unbalanced. God steers us in the direction of His kingdom, His purpose, His passions. His desire it not to conform us but to transform us. Not to make us compliant, but to make us creative. His intent is never to domesticate us, but to liberate us.
Erwin Raphael McManus from The Barbarian Way (pg.64)

God's plan for redemption was created long before time. God's redemption transforms us, gives us new life, grants us new freedom. We glimpse eternity now and find the longing for a more intimate relationship with God.

Read 1 John 4:9-10

This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us . . . 1 John 4:10

God sent His only Son to earth ~ Jesus was betrayed, beaten and buried for our sins. Yet, it is God's Purpose ~ salvation for the sinners ~ that had the last word. Christ lives! And all this for my sins and for your sins, for all sinners.

consider this!
  • Define 'real love'.
  • What did Jesus have to sacrifice to come into the world?
  • What does 'real love' offer that the world cannot?

God of Mercy ~ I are not worthy of such love, such sacrifice. You love best of all. At best, my days are filled with token deeds and worthy gestures but none come near to Your sacrifice. I kneel at Your altar with praises for freedom through Christ. Transform me! Amen. ~dho

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lent ~ God Is Love

Open your hearts to the love God instills . . . God loves you tenderly. What He gives you is not to be kept under lock and key, but to be shared. Mother Teresa

Love is an action, one a person chooses to receive and chooses to give. Because the Spirit lives inside the believer, we are empowered to love, to love like Christ. Commentary in the Life Application Bible says it this way: God's love always involves a choice and an action.

Read 1 John 4:7-8

. . . God is love. 1 John 4:8 NCV

God's love is higher and deeper and wider and grander than we can begin to imagine. He loves us, calls us, draws near to us. God chooses us! When our response is to choose God, we discover more than enough. When we choose God, His love overflows into us. Loving each other is the action that demonstrates His amazing grace.

consider this!
  • What is the source of all love?
  • Is real love a feeling?
  • How well do I really love?

Love Most High ~ You can only love one way ~ Completely, Generously, Perfectly. Kindle my heart with that tender Love. My heart weeps at such an offering. Forgive me when I hold tightly to Your love, when my selfish soul stops the flow of Perfect Love. Amen. ~dho

Monday, March 09, 2009

Lent ~ God Is Greater

I saw the Milky Way in full glory once, while visiting a refugee camp in Somalia, just below the equator. . . I could not lift my sights beyond that refugee camp situated in an obscure corner of an obscure country on the Horn of Africa. Until I saw the Milky Way. It abruptly reminded me that the present moment did not comprise all of life. History would go on. Tribes, government, whole civilizations may rise and fall, trailing disaster in their wake, but I dared not confine my field of vision to the scenes of suffering around me. I needed to look up, to the stars. Philip Yancey from Finding God in Unexpected Places (pg. 29)

Philip Yancey's words paint a true picture of this world ~ full of difficulty and full of God. Those who serve the world do not speak of God, do not listen to God. These unbelievers denounce Christians who faithfully witness for Christ.

Read 1 John 4:4-6

. . . because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 1 John 4:4 NLT

We find ourselves surrounded by chaos and confusion, which always comes from evil; yet we are never alone, always have hope. The Holy Spirit resides within every believer. How easy to get lost in the negative and forget to look for God's Presence ~ It is everywhere! Just take time to look.

consider this!
  • Can you identify evil influences in your daily life?
  • How can you give God the "greater" place in your life?
  • Is the Spirit abiding in you?

    Holy Father ~ The world speaks a language designed to rob You of glory. Sometimes, the burden of the confusion and disorder almost suffocate me. My Hope is Christ! Like fresh air, the Spirit breathes new life into the darkest moments. You are greater than anything in this world. Amen. ~ dho

Sunday, March 08, 2009

2nd Sunday in Lent ~ False Prophets

Kathleen Norris recounts in Amazing Grace of preparing a Bible Study session on the "Antichrist" and her pastor's reply:
What the pastor said was so simple that it will remain with me forever. "Each one of us acts as an Antichrist," he said, "whenever we hear the gospel and do not do it".

Too often we believe what sounds good instead of searching for the truth. Satan is clever because there are always threads of truth in all his deceptions. We get tangled in the rhetoric and miss the point.

Read 1 John 4:1-3

. . . do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. . . every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist. . .
1 John 4:1,3 NIV

Many will try to confuse us ~ evil spirits and humans that are being used by the evil spirits. Scripture tells us that every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. To acknowledge Jesus requires our words ~ our confession of faith in Jesus ~ and our actions ~ our deeds done in response to our faith. Words are powerful but our actions evidence our faith to others. When we say we believe that Jesus is our resurrected Savior but act without love, we become the Antichrist.

consider this!
  • What must one believe about Christ to be a Christian?
  • Why is important to know The Truth?
  • Does the Antichrist live at my house?

Father ~ I know the world is full of trickery, that Satan delights in my failure to listen for the Spirit of Truth. I want a discerning heart. Amen. ~dho

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Lent ~ Fellowship Defined

We are saved so that we might know Him in intimate daily fellowship.
Steve McVey/ Grace Walk

The growing intimacy defines a deeper relationship. God calls us into community with Him, longs to have intimate daily fellowship with His children. Do we really desire this?

Read 1 John 3:23-24

And this is His commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. Those who obey God's commandments live in fellowship with Him and He with them. And we know He lives in us because the Holy Spirit lives in us. 1 John 3:23:24 The Message

Love defines this mutuality ~ His Love for us, our love for others. In our obedience to Love, we find ourselves both loved and loving. We are never alone when we live in fellowship with Him.

consider this!
  • What is the character of Jesus?
  • What is required for living in fellowship with Him?
  • What evidence of God's presence is given the believer?

Spirit of Life ~ You draw near to me, call me to live deeply in Christ. Let Love shine through me however You desire. Amen. ~ dho

Friday, March 06, 2009

Lent ~ Completely Yielded

But many Christians have misunderstood the purpose of the law. The law was given so that people might see their own absolute inadequacy to live in a way that glorifies God.
Steve McVey / Grace Walk

We live in a world where anything goes; we live with its illusions of perfection. Success and wealth and beauty demand attention. In our disillusionment, we are discouraged when these self sufficient attempts do not bring satisfaction.

Read 1 John 3:19-22

For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. . . We are able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we're doing what He said, doing what pleases Him. 1 John 3:20,22 The Message

We cannot save ourselves by following a set of rules. Only through Grace can a relationship with God be established. The world exploits the heart and mind by promoting "more and better". Soon the expectations are greater than the reality. When we focus on Christ and His unending Love, our hearts and minds are renewed. Realizing we no longer work for the world, we can live for Christ.

consider this!
  • What lies is the world telling me?
  • When God reveals my heart's intentions, what will I see?
  • Do I depend on God or myself?

Jesus ~ My heart often settles for "more and better" when You offer me "the most and the best." My mind struggles with "greater" but You offer "enough." My desire is to completely yield myself to You. Let Your work be done through me. Amen. ~ dho

Lent ~ Real Love

I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts. ~John Locke

The well-known idiom actions speak louder than words is true. If our hearts embrace real love then we will respond with real love to others. Loving is not always easy and involves time and sacrifice. We like to believe ourselves to be generous but often we are more generous with our 'things' than our ''time'.

Read 1 John 3:14-18

This is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave His life for us. So we should give our lives for our brothers and sisters. . . My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring. 1 John 3:16,18 NCV

Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice for us ~ His life on the cross! Scripture says we should give our lives for others. How can that be? Our giving does not have the power to pardon sin, but with Christ, we are empowered to forgive, to listen, to love, to reach into another's pain, to touch another's grief, to celebrate another's joy. With Christ, we speak His name with good deeds and a sincere heart.

consider this!
  • Have I ever received real love?
  • When was the last time I put down my life, lay down my agenda, gave some of my precious time, offered real love ~ for someone else?
  • What do my actions reveal?
Lord ~ It is so hard to believe in Love so real! It is hard to accept Love so pure! You are Perfect Love given to me. Words come and go, heard and not heard, written and forgotten, but when I love others in their ordinary days, touching their everyday wounds and weaknesses, dilemmas and decisions, fears and failures ~ I am loving You and offering Your Love to others. Use me, Lord! Amen. ~ dho

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Lent ~ Evil vs. Righteousness

Christian discipleship is a decision to walk in His ways, steadily and firmly, and then finding that the way integrates all our interests, passions and gifts, our human needs and our eternal aspirations.
Eugene Peterson ~ A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Love is the message God has given us from the beginning. To love God and to love each other sums up all the commandments. What is the first Bible verse children learn? ~ God is love! Because He is love and because He loves us, we can love.

Read 1 John 3:11-13

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
1 John 3:11 NIV

In these verses, a reference is made to Cain and Able in Genesis (4:1-16). Cain does not give his best to God; Able does, and this makes Cain look bad. In fact, Cain is so angry that he kills his brother Able. Sometimes when we choose to live righteous lives, the world will respond in a negative way. The world always tries to undermine God's Goodness. As we read a few days ago, Live deeply in Christ, let His Holiness permeate all areas of your living, even though the world will hate you. God promises to always be with us; He does not promise an easy path.

consider this!
  • Who should love?
  • Whom should we love?
  • Will you?

Father of Light ~ We live in a world that loves itself. Without You, we do not even know what love is. You are the Love we must choose for ourselves, the Love that we must offer to others. Give us strength for the long journey through the darkness. Amen. ~dho

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Lent ~ Righteousness of Christ

When the heart begins to burn with truth, when it takes root in you and you simply must respond to it, that is when you know with certainty that God is real, that the hope of your calling is genuine, that the power of His presence is available, and that the riches of His ministry through you is manifest to others as well.
Ray Stedman from The Power of His Presence /

Christians are not perfect but the intentions of their actions should be Christ-focused. Evil is real, and Satan always lies waiting for another opportunity to tempt us. Sadly, we frequently follow his lead. As children of God, we must strive for righteous living. Joyfully, we can find our Example, our Success, our Intercessor ~ in Jesus.

Read 1 John 3:4-10

Dear children, don't let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it is because they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it show they belong to the Devil. 1 John 3:7-8 NLT

The world will tell you there is no evil, that Satan does not exist. The Living Word of God tells you the truth ~ evil and Satan are alive and well and looking for you! As humans, we are incapable of "not sinning"; we are sinful creatures, fallen and imperfect. In Christ we are made new; our new hearts desire to live a more holy life. To engage in habitual, repetitive sinning, is not righteous living; it is destructive living. Christians are called to live as Christ and love one another.

consider this!
  • Read 1 John 3:5; compare our sins with Jesus.
  • Read 1 John 3:8; what do we know about the Devil's sins?
  • What do your actions reflect ~ child of God or a child of the Devil?

God ~ Your goodness overwhelms me as the Spirit draws near to whisper of Perfect Love and holiness and peace. The world distracts me and shouts and lures. But You are greater than anything in this world. I hold to Your Promises. Amen. ~ dho