Thursday, November 28, 2013

Promises of Thanksgiving ~ Creator, Deliverer, Redeemer ~ Part 2

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. His love endures forever.  Psalm 136:1

For our Lord God Almighty reigns.

While Hallelujah occurs many times in the Old Testament, according to Bible scholars, "Hallelujah" is used only 4 times in the New Testament and all can be found in Revelation chapter 19. Over the many centuries, time and time again, God's love replenishes His people. References to God as "Almighty" appear 9 times in the book of Revelation. The Hebrew title for God, El Shaddai, God Almighty, reminds us that God is sovereign, all-sufficient and all powerful. To the Creator: Give thanks to the God of heaven; His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:26)

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast 
of rich foods for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine - 
the best of meats and the finest of wines.

The words of the Great Hallel (Psalm 136), which the Jewish people traditionally sing at Passover, likely fill the Upper Room at the Last Supper. With Jesus' obedience to death in Crucifixion and power over death in Resurrection, Grace rebirths us, gives us new life in Christ. No longer does homelessness or injustice define our destiny; rather, our inheritance comes from God Almighty - the One who remembers us, who chooses us. Christ, our Deliverer, invites each of us to the wedding supper, to His feast, to a future in Him. Give thanks to the God of heaven; His love endures forever.   

... Blessed are those who are invited to 
the wedding supper of the Lamb! 

God Almighty reigns! This feast will begin the celebration of Christ's Promise to return for His people. Hallelujahs rise! Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! From prophecy to testimony, Jesus reveals God's plan of eternal redemption. Our Redeemer lives! Perhaps as Christians gather around the banquet table at the wedding supper of the Lamb, we, too, will sing the Great Hallel and in unison respond: His love endures forever. 

This Thanksgiving, let our celebrations sing Hallelujah! In one chapter of his book Finding God in Unexpected Places, Philip Yancey contrasts Genesis with Revelation, the garden with the New Jerusalem, and he writes, "We live out our days between memory and foretaste." In our hallelujahs we linger in remembrance of God's indescribable gift and wait with joy for the wedding supper of the Lamb! RSVP @ Romans 10:9-12. Infinite Love never ends! ~ dho

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Promises of Thanksgiving ~ Creator, Deliverer, Redeemer ~ Part 1

Give thanks to the LORD, because He is good. His faithful love endures forever. 
 Psalm 136:1

Most of the Psalms were composed for times of worship, for singing and praising God. Psalm 136, called the Great Hallel, highlights the history of God as Creator of the world and Redeemer of Israel in the Old Testament. Traditionally, this Psalm is read at the end of the Passover supper, with its repetitive responses acknowledging God's power and protection, affirming God's promise and provision. His faithful love endures forever. 

As Creator, Deliverer, and Redeemer, God's faithfulness captures the focus of the people of Israel. Jehovah deserves hallelujahs. His power throughout creation marvels, His protection throughout uncertainty conquers, His promise throughout generations remains, His provision throughout eternity reigns. Surrounded by God's goodness, the people find their hearts overflowing with praise to God. His faithful love endures forever. 

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, let's remember God's goodness. The beauty of creation and the certainty of God calls us to our knees. The Bread of Life sustains us now and prepares us for the wedding supper of the Lamb. Redeemed by grace, our hearts explode with hallelujahs! Infinite love never ends. ~ dho

[hallel, Hebrew for 'praise']

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jesus, Friend of Mine ~ Series on Friendship

"... Now, you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me." 

When I began this "Series on Friendship" in May, I did not expect it to go for seven months, but then God's ways frequently exceed my understanding. There are a multitude of ways to tell about God's offering of friendship to us, of how we are to be friends to others in His name. I do not suggest that these last months have exhausted the topic; however, I sense the series coming to an end. This last story is personal, a story of how God orchestrates all things, even the smallest detail, revealing what is necessary as He continually gathers each of us into His Love. A time of unfolding.

In November, 1989, my parents come to visit us in Ohio; my father never leaves. During this time, he suffers a seizure that reveals a more grave health issue. My father is diagnosed with lung cancer that has spread to the brain and other areas throughout his body. His prognosis gives him six months to live. Because of the medical care we could provide and the assistance that he would need, he agrees to stay in Ohio. At first, he seems fine. A series of palliative radiation treatments to his brain did cause some hair loss, but even at Christmas he remains strong. A time to breathe.

One day he tells me about a song that he wants to have at his funeral. I make a mental note and assure him I will do this. As expected, his health declines over the next few months. Weakness and some confusion lead to decreased activity and responsiveness. On May 10, 1990, we celebrate his 70th birthday, which I believe is more for us than him. May 20, 1990, daddy dies. At his service, the song I prearranged with the funeral home plays. The next couple of months pass quietly, with remembrances and reflections of time together. Despite the difficulties, this season has been full of laughter and honesty, joy and truth, tears and hugs. A time to cherish.

In August of that year, I take my daughter to Mississippi for a few weeks to visit family and friends. For some reason I need to go back to my heart's home. On Sunday morning I rest in my home church, this church whose familiar walls witnessed so many spiritual moments for me. We stand to sing the benediction, softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me. Tears rush forward, my heart is beating so fast. Come home, come home; you who are weary come home. Thoughts are pounding inside my head. Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home! THIS is the song my daddy had asked me to have played at his funeral. How could I have made such a mistake! I realize that the song played at his funeral was the wrong song! A time of regret.

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" had never been a favorite of mine and was not the song my father requested; yet, that was the song played. I confess my disappointment in forgetting the one thing he asked. For a number of years, every time I would hear what A Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins a griefs to bear I immediately felt remorse. Ironically, its humdrum tune gradually captures my attention; its words emphasize our privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. With each line ending in prayer or some common word that rhymes with prayer, its simplicity begins to teach me about what peace we often forfeit and what needless pain we bear when we neglect prayer. Weaving trials and temptations with refuge and solace stands the Weaver, Precious Savior. Throughout the hymn a theme evolves. Jesus knows our every weakness; in His arms He'll take and shield you if we will simply take it to the Lord in prayer. The greatest promise lies within the rhetorical asking can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus is our most faithful Friend. A time of growing.

In the fall of 2005, I am sitting at a women's conference at Trinity on the Hill UMC in Augusta, GA, listening to Amy Breitmann, talk about The Lydia Project, of which she is Co-Founder. Then I hear what a Friend we have in Jesus. As the song continues, the presence of the Holy Spirit seems to cover me and overwhelms my heart. In this moment my soul hears holy whispers this song was not a mistake; this song was for you! All those years ago, God had chosen this simple song ~ for me. Knowing all my needs, He kept reminding me to bring all my troubles, all my disappointments, all my weaknesses to Him. Jesus kept proclaiming His friendship, weaving simple words and rhyme into teachings about prayer and promises. Jesus is a Friend of mine! A time of healing.

Blessed Savior, Thy mercies how tender, how firm til the end; our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend. Faithful Friend, hear my prayers of praise and petitions of pain. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. ~ dho

God orchestrates all things, even the smallest detail, revealing what is necessary as He continually gathers each of us into His Love. Donna Oswalt

Jesus kept proclaiming His friendship, weaving simple words and rhyme into teachings about prayer and promises. Jesus is a Friend of mine! A time of healing. Donna Oswalt

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Spirit of God

You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ 

by the wind of God, the Spirit of God. 

John 3:8 (The Message)

Holy Wind

A mighty gust, some gentle breezes,
Either blows wherever it pleases.
In silence passing, roaring through,
Hidden still, this Wind chooses you,

From south to north or west to east,
From weak to strong or more to least,
Invisible, with power to
Break and mend, this Wind comes to you.

Quietly with intense yearning,
The Wind flames a fire burning
Within the soul, consuming dross
That calls repentance to the cross.

From south to north or west to east,
From weak to strong or more to least,
This Perfect Love endures each nail
Which reconciles and rends the veil.

Infinitely bolder than deep,
Broader than wide, higher than steep,
Holy Wind, hold each empty place,
Mend my soul with marvelous Grace.
~Donna Oswalt

Spirit of God,
Despite my sin - resume the call – define my heart!
Delight my mind – assume my sin – design my life!
Ignite the fire - consume the dross - refine my soul!
Invisible and Indescribable and Invincible! Take me now!