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

Monday, March 02, 2009

Lent ~ Marvelous Love

God loves us for ourselves. He values our love more than He values galaxies of new created worlds. A.W. Tozer

The love the Father has for His children exceeds the boundaries of our imaginations. It is both marvelous and wonder-full, generous beyond explanation.

Read 1 John 3:1-3

What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! . . . And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1, 3 The Message/NASB

consider this!
  • Who are the children of God?
  • Read Galatians 4:4-7; how is it possible to become a child of God?
  • Are you in God's family?

Father ~ Your love for us is higher and deeper and wider than we can understand. Jesus ~ You are the hope that makes us holy. Spirit ~ breathe into us new life. Amen! ~ dho

Sunday, March 01, 2009

1st Sunday of Lent ~ Live Deeply in Christ*

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

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

Read 1 John 2:18-29

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

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

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

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

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

Lent ~ God calls

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

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

Read 1 John 2:12-17

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

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

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

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