Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Journey Notes

photo property of Donna Oswalt

You'll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does. Ecclesiastes 11:5b The Message

For the last seven years, I have consistently kept a devotional-prayer journal. It is small enough to easily take with me and fits inside a Bible. I do not necessarily write in it every day, but there are times I do. Scripture, random ideas, new words, and meanings of words often find their way to the pages. Excerpts from articles, books or commentaries that effect me are also written or attached within the pages. One thing I always put in my journal is my Scripture for the year ~ the one I believe the Holy Spirit has given me. There are pages flagged as prayer requests come to me; this reminds me and gives me a place to make notes of specific needs and outcomes. 

There is one unique entry I always include: on the first page of each notebook ~ I make note of a Scripture that defines where I am spiritually when I start the book ~ my journey note. I often discover this to be way the Spirit leads me during this phase of my journey with Him. Occasionally, I also write a quote or commentary that speaks to His Word. When the book is complete, when no more empty pages remain, I mark the front with the beginning and ending dates and begin another. Looking back I can always find a richness of God's teaching, wisdom and leading and a deeper understanding of my struggles, successes, and relationship with God. Sometimes, the very circumstances that brought me the most discomfort reveal my most intimate times of spiritual growth with God. 

My current journal note is this Scripture from Ecclesiastes and reflects a truth that our American, can-do attitude frequently challenges. We desire to be in control, even if only to know what comes nextMy nature is to explore and examine and reach conclusions. I like to understand how all the pieces fit together. The MacArthur Study Bible commentary on this verse gives great insight: 
"The world is full of things over which one has no control                              - including the purposes of God." 

So in the daily journey with the Father, we should be seeking His will and purpose in life, listening for His voice to lead, and knowing His compassion as peace. We must trust God with thankful hearts ~ thankful God loves unconditionally, and trusting Him to work all things into His perfect plan. Because try as I might, I will never understand the mystery at work in all that God does. ~ dho

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Anchor of Hope

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast... 
Hebrews 6:19 NASB
Christ is the HOPE we have as Christians. He is Grace that is Greater and Blessed Assurance. With Christ and in Christ and through Christ, we can know a HOPE that is both sure and steadfast. In times when the ocean roars, when storms threaten, when darkness covers our celestial navigation, with this HOPE we will endure until calm waters return.
Whatever circumstances come, let us go forward with HOPE, find our rest in HOPE and our strength through HOPE, sure and steadfast. When someone asks you what HOPE is, tell them, "It's an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God." Hebrews 6:19 The Message)  Tell them, "HOPE is Christ!" ~dho
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.*
* from O Worship the King
** to read more about Thomas' journey with brain cancer~

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Grace in the Wilderness

GOD put it this way:
"They found grace out in the desert, these people who survived the killing. Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them!" GOD told them, "I've never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love and more love!" Jeremiah 31:2-3 MSG

Israel learned what it meant to live in the wilderness. When God used Moses to rescue them from the bonds of slavery in Egypt, they eventually spent forty years in the wilderness. At all times God's presence was with them. When they were taken into captivity in the foreign land of Babylon, full of idol worship, their exile held them hostage in a spiritual wilderness. Again in Jeremiah, God reminded them that He was their God, that they were His people. God's promises rescued them. In the wilderness, while Israel was out looking for a place to rest, [they] met God out looking for them!"  

What about you and me? What does it take to survive in the wilderness without comfort, in a desert dry with disappointment, in a foreign land surrounded by uncertainty? Our life experiences often mirror the journey of the Old Testament Israel. Our chains of bondage may look different, and our captives may be known by other titles; the unfamiliar may exceed geography and customs. While confusion shouts in the wilderness, our continued thirst begs for more. What is your desert? Where will your wilderness lead? What is your Babylon? 

Let's take the Scripture, this Living Word of God spoken to Jeremiah centuries ago and put ourselves into the verse. "I found grace out in the desert, after I survived my times of trouble. I was looking for a place to rest and met God out looking for me! God tells me, I've never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love and more love! The Promise of God's everlasting Love exceeds all things, even the hardest and most difficult seasons. God is always with us; in fact, He is out looking for us!  Jesus is our comfort and joy, our strength and certainty in the desert. He can break the chains of bondage, release us from our captivity by false gods. He is the Living Water! Jesus is our Grace in the wilderness. ~dho

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Until the Throne of God!

But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned to me by the Lord Jesus - the work of telling others the Good News about God's wonderful kindness and love. Acts 20:24 NLT

"God is so GOOD!" That's a frequent phrase I heard Evelyn Gardner repeat. Her faithful teaching and witness was salted and peppered with her dear southern-isms made more delightful by her Georgia drawl. Each one followed by a smile then a quiet but genuine laugh. After moving from NC in 2003, I have missed Evelyn, although our paths crossed several times over the years. Today her memorial service was held at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC. I am in Augusta,Georgia, only a few hours from where she was raised in Toccoa. Evelyn is most certainly with the LORD! 

I don't remember exactly when I met Evelyn, but it is likely by being in one of her Bible Studies. For the 20 years I knew Evelyn, she was always teaching Sunday School and leading some Bible study, sharing the Good News about God's wonderful kindness and love. I have fond memories of both Evelyn and her sister, Martha, as I listened to stories of growing up in their beloved Toccoa, Tift College days, career decisions, and military adventures in Hawaii. I once had the opportunity to drive them to Chapel Hill for a doctor's appointment for Martha. It was a good day! On Cool Spring Street, lunches at Heritage Place and afterwards the casual conversation in Martha's apartment provided all three of us with soul food. Even after I moved, and Martha's cancer worsened, our visits, while fewer, continued to delight my soul! Evelyn was a faith-full prayer warrior and regularly prayed for me. Often her cards would arrive to remind me of her prayers at a divinely ordained moment. Yes, God is so Good!

Paul wrote "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. [2Timothy 4:7]. Evelyn can stand before her Creator, Redeemer and Friend and humbly repeat Paul's words. She has written a living letter for Christ on the hearts of those she touched, including mine. My life has been blessed by Evelyn and her living testimony. Matthew Henry's Commentary reflects on Acts 20 and shouts to my soul: It is good for friends, when they part, to part with prayer. Those who exhort and pray for one another, may have many weeping seasons and painful separations, but they will meet before the throne of God, to part no more. Despite moving, in spite of death, there will be reunion in Christ! Now that's the GOOD NEWS!

Evelyn shared the Good News with great joy, carried her life sorrows with dignity, enriched the lives of countless women directly and indirectly, and always remained faithful to the Lord. This is the example I hope to follow. So, until we meet again before the throne of God, dear friend, I will strive to use [my life] for doing the work assigned to me by the Lord Jesus - the work of telling others the Good News about God's wonderful kindness and love. I'll be seeing you! ~ dho