Wednesday, December 24, 2014

4th Sunday of Advent ~ Holy Light, Perfect Love

Merry Christmas!  ~ 2014                     

the 4th Sunday of Advent leads us into Christmas...

“…and they hall call his name
Immanuel,” which means
GOD WITH US!  Matthew 1:23

FrederickBuechner, American writer and theologian writes, “…Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning…” The Season of Light captures our attention with its hurried and increased activities. Choirs and candles, decorations and details capture us. Words and wonder fill us to nearly overflowing. The Virgin Mary with Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, angels singing to shepherds, a star and Magi, all coming to celebrate this newborn baby called Immanuel. Advent candles retell the familiar story with hope and peace and joy and love. Buechner continues, “The birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it.

Christmas reminds us of new beginnings. We sing Christ the Savior is born but must remember that Christ is also the Redeemer, bringing salvation to a dying world, establishing a new relationship with us. Immanuel, GOD WITH US, is still with us and holds us with grace and goodness. Jesus came that we might be His Light to others, to help the lost and have compassion on the broken, to feed the hungry and hold the hurting, to tell the Good News of His Grace, to forgive, to listen, to love. We must continue to live a new way after the Christmas celebrations end and the decorations are put away, long after we forget about sheep and shepherds. As we find our old routines, let the greatest Christmas Gift, Jesus, renew our journeys. Let’s find the new beginning and new ways of living for Christ in the coming year! ~ dho / 2014         

Thursday, December 18, 2014

3rd Week of Advent ~ Shepherds See the Glory of God!

"Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night... and the glory of The Lord shone around them... For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ The Lord... You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger..." Luke 2:8-20

The shekinah Glory of God fills the house of The Lord (1Kings 8:11) when the Ark of the Covenant is placed into the Holy of Holies in the temple Solomon built. Centuries later high above a Bethlehem field the Glory of The Lord again appears breaking the silence of the night, revealing to shepherds where to find Christ The Lord! This stands in stark contrast between appearing to the priests in the Temple in the Most Holy Place and common shepherds in an open field. Considered the least in society, shepherds, believed to be unclean, could not even worship in the Temple; yet, God chooses these with simple faith to go and find the baby Jesus. The least, the simple, the willing shepherds.

Some scholars suggest that sheep to be used for sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem were frequently kept in the fields around Bethlehem, and that perhaps the very shepherds the angel appeared to were keeping watch over these sheep. While the shepherds could not even be witnesses in legal situations, perhaps it is irony that they become the first people to bear witness and testify to the birth of Jesus. The New Testament uses the Greek word poimen for 'shepherd' meaning a person who tends to a flock. According to Mounce's Expository Dictionary, the most frequent use of poimen refers to Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. These shepherds who society deems some of its most unworthy receive the first invitation to see the Lamb of God. The unclean, the unworthy, the invited shepherds.

This Advent season reconsider these God-chosen ones. In the Christmas Story, shepherds of simple faith and willing to respond are key figures, but society calls them unworthy and unreliable. The shepherds came with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when [the shepherds] had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. Do we see others through God's eyes or accept society's view? Are we willing to recognize Jesus in the least, the simple, the broken? Aren't we ALL unclean, sinners who are unworthy? Yet, God chooses each of us ~ rich or poor, scholar or laborer, old or young, thriving or hopeless, struggling or defeated! God invites each of us to come and meet Christ The Lord ~Perfect Love, Lamb of God, Amazing Grace!  ~dho

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Second Week of Advent 2014 ~ The Lord You Are Seeking Comes!

Ad-vent: a time of waiting; marked by a spirit of anticipation; an arrival of a notable person; appearance

"See, I will send My messenger, who will prepare the way before Me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple, the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty." Malachi 3:1 NIV

Some say the four candles we light at Advent symbolize the 400 years between the prophecy of Malachi and the proclamation of John the Baptist. During those 400 years, God is silent. Historians record the lives of the people during Persian, Greek and Roman rulers, each group conquering the next. Cyrus of Persia meets defeat, and Alexander the Great claims victory. When Jerusalem comes under Greek control, idol worship desecrates the temple. During these years the Jews participate in the Maccabean revolt which re-establishes the Jewish temple. It is cleansed and rededicated (Hanukkah celebrates this victory). Ultimately the Romans defeat the Greeks, and by the time John the Baptist spreads the message about Jesus, Herod the Great rules the Roman Empire. Four hundred years of waiting! 

These 400 years mark the completion of the Old Testament writings giving the Jews an authoritative canon, comprising the Law, the Prophets, and the Wisdom writings. The Greeks compile the Scriptures of the Old Testament and translate them into Greek calling it the Septuagint. Other writings scholars acknowledge from this period include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Apocrypha, writings of Philo and Josephus, early rabbinical writings, and religious literature known as the Qumran. The Old Testament we know today includes the 39 canonical books that the Jews accepted during this time. Four hundred years of writing! 

"It is written in Isaiah the prophet:
"I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way - a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, and make straight paths for him.'" 
And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him...And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
Mark 1:2-8

In Luke 4:14-21 we can read the account of Jesus going to the synagogue, standing to read from the scroll given Him. "Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is one Me because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."  Everyone watches Jesus as He returns to sit. Jesus looks at them and says, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." Four hundred years of silence broken!

The Old Testament tells of obedient prophets who share the messages God reveals but all pass from life without the appearance of the 'Wonderful Counselor'. A faithful remnant waiting for the 'Everlasting Father' to end their struggles in a world more impressed with power and possessions pass their hope from generation to generation to generation. Desperate and defeated people longing for the one called 'Mighty God' anticipate His coming. Then the 'Prince of Peace' walks into the synagogue and announces God's promise is fulfilled, but nobody recognizes Him. 

This week contemplate God's promise of the Messiah. Think of the years of faithful waiting. Imagine yourself in the synagogue that day, listening to Jesus read the Holy Scriptures from ancient times. Are you listening? Do you recognize Jesus? Do you hear Him calling? 
God is calling to you, preparing you for His purposes. Listen! ~ dho 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

First Week of Advent 2014 ~ The Light Is Coming!

Ad-ventimportant arrival; Latin - adventus - 'arrival'; coming of the Savior

Arise, Shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
Isaiah 60:1-2 NASB

Advent brings a message of an 'important arrival' as we wait expectantly! This first week of Advent focuses on the prophecy of the Messiah. The Old Testament uses the Hebrew word kabod to describe the glory of the LORD, to define His Presence with us. God's Glory comes to us full of wonder and mystery, full of wordless splendor, breathtaking and awesome. His glory comes with abundance, divine and righteous, a light that defeats darkness, a holiness that overcomes despair. 

Isaiah the prophet often refers to the glory of the LORD, revealing God's power and holiness. God promises His Presence and Glory to shine on all people, uniting humanity and truth. Hundreds of years later John writes, "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." [John 1:5From centuries long ago until time to come, some will choose The Light while some will not. Whether kabod in the Hebrew or doxa in the Greek or shekinah in Aramaic or glory in English, God's Holy Light comes to us, comes for us, before and now and again! 

Christians are called people of the Light, and our lives should give voice to the glory of the LORD ~ praising and honoring His goodness and grace. We are to be His light shining in the world's darkness, both a "recipient and a reflector" of Light! Waiting expectantly requires action. Get out of bed...wake up...GOD's bright glory has risen for you. [The Message, Is.60:1-2] Are you waiting expectantly? The Light is coming! ~ dho

Thursday, November 27, 2014

For He Is Good! ~ Thanksgiving 2014

God is the LORD,
And He has given us light;
Bind the sacrifices with cords
to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise You;
You are my God, I will exalt You.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, 
for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

As we pause to celebrate Thanksgiving, let us reflect upon the abundant blessings that fill the moments of life. The heart experiences immense gratitude from unexpected words that whisper love and inside surprises that shout joy and within unspoken thoughtfulness. In between the obvious and outside the margins, threads of possibility weave scenes of goodness and generosity and grace. While grand gestures and catastrophic calamities stand alone and unforgotten, these small and simple pleasures embrace the soul with wordless glimpses of heaven. As silence surrounds, we must bring these most sacred offerings to the His altar with abundant thanksgiving. Within these holy moments, God draws us deeper into His Presence. Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. ~dho

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Real Rest

Re-post from July, 2009 - dho

"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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

More Than We Know

If we don't know how to pray or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves. That is why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:26-28 (The Message) 

Charles E. Poole writes in his book Beyond the Broken Lights"We have made it through, by the grace and goodness of the One who is always up to more than we know. All those times when God was doing less than we hoped, God must have been doing more than we knew. Amen." 

Holy Father, I've told You the things of my heart ~ my thankfulness for Your unending love, my willingness to be obedient to You, my love for my family and friends. What joy and goodness You have given to me, over and over and over! My soul feels Your ocean of blessings. Your Grace, like the waves, splashes over me, again and again and again. Like the wind, my wordless sighs come to You - unseen, but known. Amen~dho

Thursday, November 06, 2014

"Keep Making Me"

So often we choose the shorter path, the more worn trail, the smoother way. But in the very long, steep, and rocky experiences God calls to us; His voice teaches us to depend on Him. It is the broken and lonely places we can clearly see the need for God in our lives. In the dark and empty spaces, God waits for us! As you listen to this great music, pray the words! God is listening! ~ dho

"Keep Making Me" by Sidewalk Prophets (click here)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Generosity of Goodness

For the LORD God is a splendid shield;
The LORD will give glorious grace;
No good thing will He withhold 
From those who walk uprightly.
Psalm 84:11
Taccoa, GA ~ by Allison Oswalt

Grace falls like gentle rain, steady and sure, pours over me like rivers of light, faithful and full, floods my heart, spilling over and rushing free. I cannot capture or explain or contain such generous offerings. Yet, every day, I simply find more Grace lavished upon my soul. Gentle Shepherd, Faithful Father, Holy Spirit - You come to me with unmeasured love that is undeserved, and You show me unmerited favor.

My praise whispers Thank You, sincere and simple, shouts Hallelujah and Amen, grateful and rich, overflows "To God be the Glory, great things He has Done". I cannot adequately celebrate or applaud or adore Your Magnificent Power. Yet, every day, You graciously accept meager gratitude scattered throughout my gestures. Everlasting Light, Holy Father, Spirit of the Living God - I come to You with imperfect words that are unworthy, and, still, I find more offerings of Extravagant Grace.

God's glorious grace and my inferior offerings merge with stark contrast. God continually accepts my frail, feeble attempts to praise and worship as He lavishes me with everlasting Grace. Perfect Love chooses me! Splendid shield, I rest in wordless wonder of such glorious grace ~dho

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What Is 'Praise and Worship' Really?

Through Jesus, then, let us keep offering to God our own sacrifice, the praise of lips that confess His name without ceasing. 
Hebrews 13:15 The Voice Bible

Blackaby writes, "Genuine worship...originates within our hearts." In the Old Testament, under the original covenant, sacrifices hold an important role in the offerings, and Levite priests offer the sacrifices in the temple "on behalf of the people". Blackaby refers to the Levites as "worship leaders of their day." In the New Testament, animal sacrifices lose their importance because Christ become the last blood sacrifice needed, and God clearly emphasizes our praises and thanksgiving in worship. All this makes me think of those we call Worship Leaders in churches today. They are usually the ones who help us give voice to our heart's praises to God.

Music, in its various forms, is central to the worship experience and frequently sets the mood and tone. Through music, the rhythm of our soul's offering of praise to the Lord finds expression. Words cause the mind to ponder His character, expose the soul's deepest need, and provide the heart an opportunity to reply. Matthew Henry, Bible commentator, reminds us that "Christ is both our Altar and our Sacrifice." As we worship, this ceaseless sacrifice of praise defines the authenticity of the Christian heart.

Typically, especially in more contemporary settings, the Worship Leader designs spiritual opportunities and engages the people in what is often referred to as 'praise music'. Comparing Worship Leaders of the OT, with today's Worship Leaders, I find stark contrasts. No longer are animal sacrifices offered for people's sins; today, people directly worship God and stand in His presence because of Grace. Today's sacrifices look different. No more blood sacrifices are needed. Our sacrifice of praise rises to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving, with song or in Scripture, on chords or in chants, with drums or dance. Worship Leaders exalt God's majesty, while allowing us to examine our hearts and evolve our praise language. Praise and Worship is language pleasing to God!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Beyond "Law and Order"

"But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and come to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and then he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave then to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and what ever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' [Jesus asks] "Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" [the expert in the law said] "the one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."
Luke 10:33-37 NASB

In one of the most familiar parables in the Bible, the Good Samaritan, Jesus takes us directly to the virtual scene of the crime. There on the side of a treacherous section of a winding, steep, rocky road between Jerusalem and Jericho well known for its perpetrators, the victim lays unconscious, bleeding and left for dead. Jesus describes two others who pass but neglect to help the man. The third passer-by stops; a Samaritan, having compassion on the man, bandages his wounds, takes him to the nearest inn, cares for him, pays the innkeeper for future needs, and plans to check on him when returning home. Jesus' investigation asks us, "So, who saw the need and responded? Who demonstrates true compassion? Who was able to love without judgement?"

Jesus draws us into this senseless brutality, calls us out of our comfort zones, shows us how we are to love others. As always, political correctness tries to give its answer - or excuse - for not helping. After all, the priest follows the law keeping himself "religiously clean" while the Levite, too, keeps about his religious responsibilities. Jesus reaches beyond mere religious order and steps directly into a cultural and societal conflict. The Samaritan helping the victim crosses all kinds of social barriers; the centuries old mutual hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans highlights a dilemma. Jesus asks if we really see the needs of people or pretend not to notice. Jesus asks if we truly love others like He loves or just quote Bible verses about God's love? Jesus asks if we have genuine compassion for people or attempt to evaluate according to race, gender, or creed? 

Listening to this investigation does not tell us anything about the injured person. We do not know if he simply falls prey to some robbers, or perhaps, he, too, is a thief himself who loses an argument with a fellow robber. On this road known for crime and opportunity, hurt finds a helping hand. Every day we take a similar journey. Sometimes disappointment targets us; other times, need calls from the other side of the road. Sometimes we are overlooked or excluded; other times, unexpected love sees beyond public opinion. Jesus calls us to lay down outward appearances and stop beside need. Jesus calls each of us to develop compassionate hearts and unselfish spirits, to love fully and unconditionally. Reach beyond 'law and order'; go and do the same! ~dho

Thursday, October 09, 2014

#TBT Bible

Throw-Back-Thursday's popularity fills our Thursdays. Along with its hash tags, pictures of yester-year dance across out computer screens, mobile phones, and tablets. Frequently the hair styles and clothing reveal the era. We laugh, usually, or moan, sometimes. Today I open my #TBT Bible, my name and the date 4/13/77 on the inside cover. Back in the day, unlike now, few translations of the Bible were available. "The Living Bible" translation broke the rules by using current vernacular, much the way we appreciate The Message today. The words and the order of the words sounded friendly, more familiar to the ear. The Living Bible, while popular with teenagers, did not thrill the adults. Whatever your thoughts or preferences are about various translations of the Holy Bible, I believe God always uses His words to inspire, to convict, to reveal His Goodness and Grace.
#TBT High School, 1973

Reading today from Romans in The Living Bible, God's word tells it straight. Listen to some of the verses from Chapter 12: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves...we belong to each other, and each needs all the others. God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. And further down, Don't just pretend that you love others; really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other. These very valuable words remind us our connectedness in Christian community. These words are not just for #TBT!

Life is messy! We wait, longing for time to pass more quickly then hurry to what is next. Hurt and disappointment become friends we wish we didn't know. Doubt shouts! Hypocrisy mocks! But, God always sees the bigger picture, sees beyond what our minds cannot understand. Using my #TBT Bible, I find these words: Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and prayerful always. (Romans 12:12) I did not read other translations or search commentaries (none in the #TBT Bible), did not research Greek origins of the words or look for cross references. I simply let my prayer echo His inspired words: With a grateful heart, God, I trust You are planning something good for me. In times of trouble, help me be patient. Every moment of every day, my prayers rise to You. I long to spend time with You ~ listening, resting, waiting, learning, loving. Amen! ~dho

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Holy Breathing!

"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!"   Psalm 150:6

If you ever have questions about how to praise God, read Psalm 150 for the 'who, what, when, where, why, and how' answers. Anytime and everywhere, our lives are to PRAISE the LORD - the One who is Creator and Comforter, filled with mystery and majesty, holiness and healing; Praises to The Giver of goodness and grace. God is Love. Praise the LORD!

Whether in corporate or private worship, Christians, both collectively and individually, should praise God. This PRAISE is not an ordinary gesture or mere flattery; rather, it is to be a creative praise that radically raves about His awesomeness, ranging from silent awe to sacred shouts. PRAISE evolves into words and music, prayers and singing, rhythmic responses celebrating God's "mighty deeds" and "excellent greatness". Musical instruments of all forms - wind, strings, percussion, dancing - create a ceaseless motion of spontaneous joy to and for the LORD of all. Praise the LORD!

We all struggle in a world saturated by disease, poverty, and injustice that stands in stark contrast to Heaven's perfect, complete, and loving promises. The Greek word for 'breath' is neshamah which means all that is living within us. Just as GOD first breathed life into mankind (Genesis 2:7), He remains the Breath of Life within each Christian. PRAISE honors the redemption through Christ, which is victory over death, but also, this holy breathing glorifies God for His constant presence in our daily struggles. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! ~dho

Thursday, September 25, 2014

NOT Just Christmas 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

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. On the night Jesus is born in Bethlehem, peace is the message of the angels. Peace is not just for Christmas!

Peace in the Hebrew [shalom] and Greek [eirene] teaches "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 us desires the assurance of peace. Only God can provide complete peace. Do you have peace? Are you seeking God for Real PEACE? Let the Peace of Christ be born in you today! ~ dho

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Call To Worship

LEADER: We've been in hiding for too long.

Men: Perhaps we should open the doors of our lives to welcome whatever comes.

LEADER: But suppose that destruction, fear, and death arrive at our door?

Women: Jesus always said to us, "Do not be afraid, I am with you."

ALL: LORD, help us believe.

LEADER: Why is it so difficult to believe?

Men: We have been disappointed so many times.

LEADER: Do we dare trust that this time will be different?

Women: Everything is different when we trust in Jesus Christ.

ALL: LORD, help us believe!

LEADER: What will we do if we actually see the risen Lord?

Men: Our fears will be banished, and we will live in the truth of Christ.

LEADER: What is the truth of Christ?

Women: Christ has overcome the bonds of death. He is risen and goes before us.

ALL: LORD, we believe; help our unbelief. Amen.

~Call to Worship, St. Luke UMC

This Call to Worship presents uniquely in that the responses come from men and women individually and then collectively in unity. Why do we distance ourselves from one another, from the community? Disappointment and fear, disease and financial crisis, death and failure create disconnect and doubt within the soul. We cry out, LORD, help us to believe! Trusting in Christ renews the soul and refurbishes the heart. Christ brings joy into the suffering, faith into the doubt, love into the fear, and healing into the loss. We cry out, LORD, help us to believe!

Spiritual struggle knows no boundaries, does not recognize gender, race or age. We ALL struggle! Christ is the Truth that conquers the world with all its rage and wickedness. Christ calls us into relationship with Him and others. Confidence in Christ allows us to fail and start again, weep and find laughter, doubt and believe again. Let my soul reply, I believe; help my unbelief! ~dho

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering "Personal 9-11's"

In honor of remembering America's September 11, 2001 and September as Childhood Cancer Awareness month, I celebrate the patriots of America who come in all shapes and sizes, without distinction of gender or race and the heroes of cancer, who, like patriots, stand in the gap, persevere through the valleys, struggle to survive. The unexpected, whether the attack comes from terrorism or a tumor, shocks and disrupts the rhythm of the moment. In our darkest moments there is life-giving hope. This hope is Christ.

God of Grace and God of Glory

previously published on "Caring Bridge for Thomas McGirr" on Sep 11, 2011 4:43pm
Today America pauses to remember 9-11 and the heroes of that day, the victims of terrorism, those who died and those who have survived. Today my pastor spoke of America's 9-11 in 2001 and also what he called our "personal 9-11's".
We affirmed our faith this morning in church with these words (shared in part): We believe in Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man . . . Because He lives we believe that in our darkest moments there is life-giving hope . . . in the midst of suffering there is grace for healing . . .Thanks be to God! Amen.
God of Grace and God of Glory . . . Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days! (from hymn: God of Grace and God of Glory)
In these times when we walk this unexpected valley with Thomas, there is no greater comfort than to be reminded that God goes before us, God stands with us, God is our rear guard. The closing hymn today reminds my soul to focus on The Anchor, our Hope ~ Jesus Christ!
As we step into this next week of treatment, Thomas's hair is starting to come out. On Tuesday, he will receive treatment #15 - marking half the treatments are done. He battles some nausea and fatigue, but God's strength is evidence in his will to keep moving forward, his joy in the simple moments, his remarkable smile. In the times to come, we continue to find Hope in Jesus. He gives a greater Grace!  
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness . . . On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand."
To God be the Glory ~ dho

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Breathing Room

 [God] is waiting to explode our smallness and put us in places of which we have only dreamed. . . Do not settle for smallness, . . . God is waiting to take you into places and open you up to opportunities that exist only in your wildest dreams. Dennis Kinlaw, This Day with the Master

Kinlaw goes on to point out that these opportunities do not come from our own making, rather "you must let [God] give you the opportunities and move you into new places."

Why is it that we  complain about the smallness of our lives, the smallness of the moments? When does our complacency allow us to be content with our smallness? How often do we go in search of new places and opportunities by ourselves? Do we seek God's will for our moments or charge ahead, desperate to create our own? 

These are questions that wrestle with my mind. The many possibilities can create conflict for me, and other times, the waiting stagnates my willingness. If these words are true, that God desires to put us in places of which we have only dreamed, dare I not wait with Him? Likewise, if we must let God provide the opportunities and move us to these new places, dare I not trust His leading?  I must trust Him absolutely! ~dho

God, the One and Only - I'll wait as long as He says.
Everything I need comes from Him,
He's solid rock under my feet,
breathing room for my soul.
. . . So trust Him absolutely.
Psalm 62:1-2,8 The Message

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Faith Is ~ Week 9

"If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us our of your hand, O King. Bur if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." Daniel 3:17-18 ESV 

With Israel taken captive by Babylon, Daniel and three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, are chosen from Israel's nobility to be in service to King Nebuchadnezzar. They demonstrate great intellect and easily learn the language of the Babylonians. When Nebuchadnezzar creates a huge golden idol, the edict follows that all must worship it. In chapter 3 we read the account of Daniel's three friends and their refusal to worship this false god. Their punishment would place them in a fiery furnace with temperatures "seven times hotter than usual". Steadfast in their faithfulness to God, Scripture reveals their uncompromising commitment to God.

In this story we find some characteristics of faith that stand the test. Believing that God is Sovereign, these young men proclaim that He is "able to deliver" them from the fire. Trusting God to provide for their needs, their commitment to God does not waiver when faced with unimaginable circumstances. Also, their witness stands true! Without any doubt, they acknowledge that if God chooses not to save them from death, never would they worship the idol. In Crazy Love, Overwhelmed by a Relentless God Francis Chan writes, "True faith means holding nothing back. It means putting every hope in God's fidelity to His Promises." Our faith can be tested when the outcome of a situation or an answer to prayer collides with our heart's hope. True faith, uncompromising commitment to God, calls us to hold nothing back while always trusting God. ~dho

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Faith Is ~ Week 8

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11 NIV 

Without a standard for truth, all truth becomes relative. The foundation for faith, the solid rock is Jesus Christ. Jesus is The Truth. He is the Divine Truth that willing enters the world bringing redemption to all humanity. Jesus is the Living Truth that overcomes death offering restoration to fallen people. Miracles and compassion flow from Him; yet, He is mocked and denied. Infinite Love pours over all who know Him; Christ reminds the world is full of trouble. Christ is the Truth that goes before us, stands with us, and lives in us. To have faith is to believe beyond what can be seen, to trust the character of God, the One who's promises never fail.

Without focusing on God's Truth, without a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus, life becomes disorganized. Chaos churns in the stresses and uncertainties of our days. Worry and fear dominate while failure mocks. The Gospel of Jesus is truth for the Christian; grace brings salvation and eternal life. With God, spiritual order reigns, conquers the world's darkness. In the middle of the crazy, busy living, we know a peace, a contentment, a confidence. Around the hurry, beside the insecurities, inside the fragile, the Spirit of Truth intercedes and illuminates. The Spirit encourages and empowers us to be faithful. To have faith is to hold to what cannot be seen, to know sabbath rest in Christ whose love endures forever. ~dho

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Faith Is ~ Week 7

Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols. Psalm 40:4 NLT

Using words to define faith and accumulating knowledge about faith can be academic exercises for the mind. In fact, without experiencing trials, disappointment, or grief, faith may remain a concept instead of becoming a recognized and reinforced process. While we cannot always understand God's ways, Christ brings grace to a fallen world. Trusting God's Sovereignty, knowing God's faithfulness, living God's grace, and believing God's love develops through personal experience. Experience refines faith. 

The very nature of faith is that it must be tried; faith untried is only ideally real, not actually real. Oswald Chambers

In Psalm 40, verses 1-10, David's past life experiences declare a bold faith based on God's character. His gratitude exposes God's power and explains the reasons for his increasing confidence in God. In verses 11-17, David's confidence depends on God, his Salvation, his Help, his Deliverer.  Life experiences frequently bring us to the altar of God. Because of God's unchanging nature, He remains with us, sustains us. We hold to this tested faith for every present need because trust deepens, intimacy embraces, hope believes. Christ is the foundation of our faith. What story does your faith tell? ~dho