Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year, New Possibilities!

Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it - not with ink, but with God's living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives. 2 Corinthians 3:3 The Message 

What will 2016 bring? As this new year begins, each of us stands before new opportunities and beside endless possibilities. Uncertainties and unknowns lay waiting, too! So - how shall we live? Begin now to answer this question by reading God's word and seeking His response to you. Find your Scripture verse for this year; the Holy Spirit will lead you. Let it be your spiritual map for the year, a guide through the unknowns, an assurance for the journey, a rescue in a crisis, a witness to others along the way. In following Christ, we become living letters written by the Holy Spirit. This coming year, let's choose to live fully and love completely for the glory of God. ~dho

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Day, 2015


Wishing you and your families a Merry Christmas! On the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior, remember to light the Christ candle - today and every day! ~dho

Thursday, December 24, 2015

EXPECT... Christ is Coming! - Advent 2015

Jesus promised: Behold, I am coming soon!... I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Revelation 22:12-13

"We must practice living to the glory of God."  Tozer

Christ is coming! God's promise echoes throughout the Old Testament in times of obedience and  oppression, in bondage and brokenness, in rebellion and rescue. Christ is coming! "For unto us a Child is born...and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6) Scriptures and scholars  confirm the birth and death of Christ. Skeptics walked the same dusty roads, welcome the same amazing miracles, witness the same teachings as the disciples. Discontent and fear grows while political powers denounce Jesus. On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus tells His disciples, "I will see you again..." EXPECT!

The world strikes discords of injustice, failure, hate, dishonesty and feeds temptations for these weaknesses. From the time of Jesus' resurrection until now, wars and famines and natural disasters fill the pages of history. Many believers have identified these as signs of the last times, have predicted the arrival of the Messiah. Most of these predictions have passed.In the words of the angels said as Christ ascended, "Why do you stand looking into heaven... Jesus will come in the same way you saw Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11) Holy Scriptures tell us we will not know the time or day Christ returns, but Christ is coming! EXPECT!

Throughout history - wars and rumors of wars are unceasing along with inhumanity and wicked schemes. The days on earth are full of hostilities and marked with rebellion.  From the 1st Century to the 21st Century - Christians eagerly wait Christ's return within the chaos. So with eager expectation we prepare our hearts to share the Gospel story. In the sacrament of communion, we take the bread and cup in celebration of Christ's victory of death and sin, and in celebration of His coming again. Bread of Life chooses us in love and calls us to love each other. Christ is coming! EXPECT! 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

4th Sunday of Advent - 2015

Jesus said, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 
Mt. 19:26

Christ is coming...always coming! The Promise of Christ's coming again becomes the victory over life's difficulties. In these last days of Advent, seek His presence, find His peace! Expectantly watch for Christ! This ADVENT know the promise of the coming of Christ. ~dho

Thursday, December 17, 2015

LIVE...Christ is Coming! ~ Advent 2015

But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. John 17:13
Just as our Lord came into humanity from the outside, so He must come into us from the outside. Have we allowed our personal humanity to become a "Bethlehem" for the Son of God?"  Oswald Chambers
Frederick Buechner says, "Advent is made of moments. This slow, unfurling of grace." Our busy, over-packed commitments can muffle the whispers of the season. Sometimes, almost by accident, we find these "unfurling of grace" moments rendered in sacred song, revealed in children dressed as shepherds and angels and wise men, remembered as ornaments are carefully hung on our Christmas trees. Within these moments there is quiet joy, joy of being, joy of abiding with Christ, joy of God's unending blessings. LIVE!

Joy comes with the coming of Christ that holy night in Bethlehem. As joy enters the world full of chaos, love tenderly welcomes. Soon, Joy sings from the wings of angels with glorious song to shepherds who rest in the night. A new day, a new way is born. From an unexpected entrance and into the darkness, Joy comes and humanity will be forever changed, a joy of Eternal Hope, a joy of Perfect Love, a joy of Everlasting Peace. Although Joy enters the world in Bethlehem on a dark night over 2,000 years ago, the coming of Christ still brings joy for us - for you and for me, for strangers we never meet and some who will become friends; joy comes for the affluent and the afflicted, for the brave and the spiritually bankrupt. Joy calls to the powerful and the powerless, the elderly and the children, the every-day person walking an every-day path. Today - in this moment - the coming of Christ calls each us to become a 'Bethlehem' for Him. LIVE!

Advent's joy, Immanuel, God with us, transforms our hearts and homes, our families and friendships, our communities and cultures. Christ becomes new life in us. Messiah - a name spoken by prophets, a Baby announced by angels, the Son affirmed by God, a Teacher nourished by the Spirit, a Savior crucified by sin, a Redeemer resurrected by Grace, a King returning by Promise - let my life be a Bethlehem for You! Be born again in me. Don't miss Him! LIVE! ~dho

Monday, December 14, 2015

3rd Sunday of Advent ~ 2015

Jesus said, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 

Jesus comes to us that we may have joy, that we may have HIS joy! As we move through this season that celebrates Jesus, remember that He brings joy into the world and into us. The Light of the worlds brings joy... IS joy even in our darkest and most difficult times. This ADVENT rejoice in the coming of Christ. ~dho

Thursday, December 10, 2015

LISTEN...Christ is Coming! ~ Advent 2015

For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11

"The Giver becomes the Gift, this quiet offering." Ann Voskamp

Familiar names fill Bethlehem's ancestry, names like Caleb, Rachel, Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, Obed, Jesse, and David, and its place is etched in history long before the coming of Christ. As predicted 700 years before (Micah 5:2) in the village of Bethlehem surrounded by the darkness of night, the Gift arrives - "this quiet offering" - Christ the Lord. From a virgin womb to a worn manger, the coming of Christ births God's plan for reconciliation. The Bread of Heaven comes to give life to the world. With the power of redemption, reaching into the darkness of humanity, Love embraces brokenness. LISTEN!

Centuries foretell this holy night, revealing more than recorded historic prophecy. In an ordinary stable, Jesus is born into the world. An event so extraordinary, thousands of heavenly angels proclaim His coming, "for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Songs of praise and hope fill the night sky. From silent terror to urgent action, these shepherds, these socially undesirables, these lowly peasants, these religiously unclean sinners who are not allowed into the temple, who are not allowed to testify in court ~ THESE simple shepherds become the first to be told of a Savior entering the world. They respond, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." (Luke 2:15) The humble surroundings of Christ's coming stand in stark contrast to the glorious announcement of the angels. The first witnesses who would testify about His birth are the antithesis of the kings and religious leaders who would testify against Jesus. LISTEN! 

The coming of Christ marks a permanent place on history's timeline, marks the beginning of a spiritual transformation for humanity. He comes bringing salvation to all - for kings and outcasts, for rich and poor; Christ holds no preferences for race or gender, for social status or cultural origin. He is not defined by person or place. On that mysteriously, miraculous night, the coming of Christ begins to change the people, one simple shepherd at a time. Good news of great joy for all people comes as a gift of Perfect Love. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) Immanuel, God with us, comes to us. Don't miss Him! LISTEN! ~dho

* Ann Voskamp, "The Greatest Gift"

Sunday, December 06, 2015

2nd Sunday of Advent ~ 2015

Jesus said, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 
Mt. 19:26

In the quiet of the darkness of night, suddenly angels fill the sky singing, "Glory to God in the highest! And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" Shepherds, bewildered and amazed, look up at the multitude of angels. Shepherds hear the angelic proclamation that a Savior is born in Bethlehem, a baby who is Christ the Lord. These who society considerd religiously unclean, these not legally allowed to testify in court - THESE simple shepherds are the first to be told of Christ entering this world. The shepherds go and see the baby lying in a manger. In celebration, these witnesses to the holy coming of Christ tell others about their unbelieveable experience.This ADVENT celebrate the coming of Christ. ~dho

Thursday, December 03, 2015

WATCH...Christ is Coming! ~ Advent 2015

"The LORD will rise...and His Glory will appear upon you." Isaiah 60:2

"This Christmas story - it begins in the beginning, this love story that's been coming for you since the beginning. It begins with the always coming of Christ."  
Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

There is deep beauty in the "always coming of Christ" that touches the soul with uncompromised hope. God's presence with His people, His shekinah glory, fills the imagination today in scenes recounted in the Old Testament. For Moses, after completing the tabernacle as God described, the "glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle." For the people of Israel, "throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night." When the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies in the temple Solomon built, "the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD." Solomon's prayer of dedication acknowledges that God cannot be contained in a dwelling built by man and declares "from Your dwelling place" hear the prayers of Your people. Shekinah comes from a Hebrew word meaning "dwelling of the divine presence of God" and affrims, "Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You." God's omnipresence exceeds the boundaries of time and space; He is infinite and everlasting. WATCH!

Hope speaks through the prophecies and promises of the coming of Christ, of a Messiah, a Savior. Isaiah gives words of a future hope, this always coming of Christ, "Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of LORD rises and appears over you." From the beginning, God's everlasting covenant of love has contained a New Covenant, a Perfect Love, a Blessed Assurance ~ an always coming of Christ. In Revelation 15:8 John describes God's shekinah glory and power when the Messiah comes again, "The Temple was filled with smoke from God's glory and power." The promise that Christ is coming ~ always coming ~ prevails! The Messiah's words still echo through centuries of time and generations of waiting, "Look, I am coming soon...I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." WATCH!

Full of signs and symbols, Advent gathers God's prophecies and promises of redemption. Centered around an evergreen wreath and the lighting of candles, the Eternal God calls to us in Scripture and story and song. Iconic pictures come to mind as we hear the Christmas story read once again. Familiar carols and children dressed as shepherds and sheep pause the world, if for only a moment here and there. In this stillness, God's glory fills us. Lost in the wonder of indescribable love and surrounded by the divine presence of God ~ remember and reflect and reclaim hope in the "always coming of Christ." Don't miss Him - WATCH! ~dho

* additional Scriptures referenced in post with links below from
 Exodus 40; 1 Kings 8:11; Isaiah 60:2; Revelation 22:12-13

Sunday, November 29, 2015

1st Sunday of Advent ~ 2015

Jesus said, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 
Mt. 19:26

God's shekinah glory, His presence manifested, comes to us full of wonder and mystery, full of wordless splendor, breath-taking and awesome. God promises His presence and glory to shine on all, uniting humanity and truth. This ADVENT celebrate the coming of Christ! ~dho

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Hope

But as for me, I will hope continually and will praise You yet more and more.
Psalm 71:14 NASB

In homes across America this week, preparations for Thanksgiving are in full swing - traditions requiring planning and grocery shopping for the annual gathering of family. So many decisions abound - to stuff or not to stuff the turkey, how much sage to put in the dressing, what kind of cranberry sauce to serve, and which desserts to include. Yes, it does sound a bit more like a celebration of indulgence than simple thankfulness. So, when did Thanksgiving become more about abundance of food rather than abundance of hope?

This past summer, my family took a great vacation to Maine. On our way we stopped in Rhode Island at Plymouth Rock. There is a complete replica of the Mayflower there; along the quaintdss streets there are souvenir shops, ice cream and t-shirt shops side-by-side historical markers. You see restaurants and lodging with iconic names like the Mayflower General Store and the William Bradford Inn. The view of the harbor is lovely, and old stone walls and churches tell a story of long ago. But the story of the first Thanksgiving reflects a people who endured great hardship on a long journey of hope.

Leaving Plymouth, England in September 1620, 102 people sail across the ocean for 2 months, some seeking religious freedom and some seeking prosperity in the New World, but all coming with hope. Only half of the original passengers would live to see Spring in New England. Within that first year, Native Americans would teach these pilgrims how to plant and harvest corn. While the Native Americans had a long tradition of celebrating the fall harvest, in 1621 they gather together in celebrating the pilgrims' first successful corn harvest. This merging of nations and traditions with a feast of thankfulness writes America's first Thanksgiving story. The hope of new beginnings, the hope of survival, the the hope of religious freedom, the hope of prosperity join together creating new traditions with new people. 

Pilgrim means a "person who journeys" or a "newcomer to a place". Some of the Mayflower pilgrims came to a new land looking for freedom to worship without mandates by the government. Some of these pilgrims came to make money. These settlers and many others would set the standard and endure the cost of these pursuits. There would be death and famines and wars and more than 150 years before the Declaration of Independence would be written and signed officially forming a new nation. When I think about those times and now, I see lots of similarities. We continuously find ourselves enduring uncertainties and often hardships (physical, emotional, or financial). We don't always get along with our neighbors. Sometimes, we are the newcomer and are not welcomed, other times the roles reverse. We constantly hear about death and famines and wars. Yet, we all need hope to pull us through; we need each other and need to gather together in feasts of thanksgiving.

We are still on a long journey but now live those very freedoms the hope of the pilgrims of 1620 brought to the New World. None of us are perfect; we are flawed and yearn for more. At times money motivates and differences divide and fears fetter our hearts. For more than 200 years after the first harvest feast, America found ways to celebrate the hope of freedom, but it would not be until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an official holiday with this proclamation:
Lincoln asking Americans to "ask God to command to His tender care on all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife." He called for an annual day of Thanksgiving, the last day of November to "heal the wounds of a nation."
We are all pilgrims on a journey of hope - a hope for better, a hope for more. Let us strive to be a brighter light and a kinder neighbor for there is enough darkness around us. Let us seek to love better and judge less for there is more than enough suffering already. Let us shout praises of thanksgiving for the freedom of America and freedom of our souls. Let us offer prayers of thanksgiving to God whose blessings of mercy and grace define our Hope. Let us gather together - with family or friends or whoever we meet on Thanksgiving day - and remember, we are pilgrims who are prone to wander...prone to leave a God who pursues us, loves us, rescues us. Jesus continues to seek the newcomers and the strangers and those who have simply lost their way. Let our Thanksgiving Hope rest in God's goodness! Let His goodness refine our HOPE! ~dho

**side note: In 1941 FDR signed a bill making Thanksgiving the 4th Thursday in November (rather than the 'last'); the purpose was to stimulate retail sales during the Great Depression. Hummm! -dho

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Praise in the Thankfulness

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 tragedy or despair, 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

[hallel, Hebrew for 'praise']

Thursday, November 12, 2015

God's Goodness

Then Moses said, "Now show me your Glory." And the LORD said, "I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."
Exodus 33:18-19 NIV

Four years ago our family prayed its way through a journey of brain cancer, surgery and radiation; we asked God to heal, to strengthen, to comfort Thomas, my nephew then 9 years old. Our prayers and the countless prayers of family and friends and friends of friends also asked for encouragement and energy, for patience and peace, for calm and courage. Holy praises were offered to the Lord for joy in simple things, for small victories, and for laughter. We had not asked God like Moses, "Now show us Your Glory", but He did! God's great goodness passed in front of us! His Glory evidenced in moments and minutes and memories of His never-failing Presence during the journey.

The question of why suffering exists and who is healed or not healed will never be adequately explained or understood by earthly minds. Soon after the beginning, human weakness invited sin to stand between mankind and God. Only through Christ can we ever find a way back into a relationship with God. Even then, we will wrestle with uncertainty and chaos and questions. However, when Christ returns for His people, Certainty and Peace and Truth will reign. For now, we can find this possibility within the heavenly realms, in God, the Creator himself who has all authority. Not bound by time or distance or circumstance, God constantly remains omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. God's ways will always exceed my understanding.

Neither knowing why nor understanding His Ways, I can say for certain that we felt God's mercy and compassion, that we witnessed God's mercy and compassion, that we will continue to tell of God's mercy and compassion. As every petition would rise like incense to this Holy God, each one overflowed with thanksgiving for such undeserved, unmerited mercy and compassion. Truly the Goodness of God passed in front of us, too, during this difficult time. God's goodness and glory still surrounds us - even now in the ordinary, everyday moments of doubt or minutes of disappointment or memories of difficulty. We continue to marvel that God let His goodness pass in front of us. We choose to see God's infinite goodness embracing us each day, especially when we do not understand.~dho

Thursday, November 05, 2015

His Tender Mercies

"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end." (Lamentations 3:22 ESV) In even the smallest details, God reveals what is necessary as He continually gathers each of us into His Love. 

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 hymn of commitment, softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for meTears 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 I had requested for 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. Disappointment in forgetting the one thing he asked burdened me. 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 emphasizing my 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 SaviorThroughout the hymn a theme evolves. Jesus knows our every weakness; in His arms He'll take and shield you if I 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 my 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 His holy whispers this song was not a mistake; this song was for you! All those years agoGod 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 SaviorThy mercies how tender, how firm til the end; our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and FriendFaithful Friend, You hear my prayers of praise and petitions of pain. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. ~ dho

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Heart Feast

Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with your heart.  Jeremiah 29:12-13 ESV

Christian theologian J.I. Packer writes this about prayer and 
our heart's intentions, "Many of us have no idea how impoverished we are at this level." The knowledge of God or our talents or commitments at church fall short without prayer. Many people claim Jeremiah 29:11 as their favorite verse, but frequently do not look at the verses immediately following. Malnourished and dehydrated, our spiritual poverty claims us, even as we try to learn and serve. As a Christian, prayer becomes spiritual sustenance for a healthy heart.

So often we neglect to focus on the goodness of God, His love and mercy and faithfulness. In lectio divina, divine meditative and spiritual reading of God's Word, both the heart and the mind embrace the love of God. In this process, prayer becomes an opening of the heart which sings gratitude, humbly confesses sin, weeps over lost opportunities, whispers and shouts needs, both simple and desperate. The holiness of God surrounds your awareness, flows into the emptiest of places, quiets the fears, and strengthens the resolve as you welcome His unconditional love. Wordless songs of joy will break free from the chains of worry and doubt, soar above the chaos, dance over the brokenness. God's goodness will overflow into living and cannot be contained. 

As we learn God's "unforced rhythms of grace", the heart finds rest in His goodness, life becomes well-nourished, and Living Water quenches the thirst for more. More than a promise of hope for the future, Scripture reveals a God of splendor and majesty, grace and holiness, love and compassion. God satisfies the "now". Open your heart to  God's infinite, unchanging and sustaining goodness. Listen! He is calling, come and pray to Me with your heart. ~dho

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Burden of Evidence

I ran across this blog post I wrote back in 2012, and it speaks now just as again and recognize each of us has a opportunity to give proof of God's Love. "For King and Country" was just awarded 2015 Dove Award for "Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year". The burden of proof lies within us. The way we love becomes the evidence that we understand God's message. We are the proof of His love! - dho

In the late 1500's and early 1600's, Galileo became a scientist that influenced many areas of mathematics, astronomy, physics and philosophy. A devout Catholic, Galileo's understandings of the universe differed with the accepted view that the earth was the center of the universe and the sun and all planets revolved around the earth. Through his studies and observations, he concluded that the earth revolved around the sun. The Pope and the church leaders thought this was heresy. They believed his theories were contrary to the Holy Scriptures. A Roman Inquisition of Galileo forbid him to speak of these theories. Ultimately, he was put under house arrest for the rest of his life. The scientific truth ~ Galileo's theory which was proven in time ~ eventually provided evidence to those who did not believe. Sometimes, giving proof is hard!

Proof is defined as sufficient evidence for a truth statement. "The Sixth Edition of Black's Law Dictionary" explains burden of proof this way:
"Ei incumbit provatio, qui dicit, non qui negat; cum per rerum naturam factum negantis probatio nulla sit . . . The proof lies upon him who affirms, not upon him who denies; since, by the nature of things, he who denies cannot produce any proof."
Atheists and God-seekers alike want proof of God. Doubt inside our frail humanity shouts its insecurity, "How do you know? What proof do you have? Most often evidence is drawn from our experiences combined with evidence from nature. Even the greatest scholars confess the great mysteries of God exceed explanation. So where's the proof?

A few weeks ago I heard a song from a newly emerging Christian group called "For King and Country". It is called Proof of Your Love. As I listened, the words remind that WE are the proof - you and me, God's children, those of us who identify with Christ, who call Him Savior. OUR LIVES are the proof that God loves! This very sobering thought raises a new awareness in me. What evidence of Christ does my life offer? Does my life story speak the love of Christ?

Years ago there was a question asked, "What if you are the only Jesus someone sees?" Those who struggle with walking by faith often expect or demand answers to their theological questions. We respond that the Holy Scriptures reveal God and His plan of Grace through faith for all mankind. While we many not understand all that is written within these God-breathed words, God's message is clear. As Christians we are to love God and love each other. Our only true understanding of unconditional love is Christ! We are called to love as Christ loves! The way we love becomes the evidence that we understand God's message. We are the proof of His love! ~ dho

(click here - link to YouTube video)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Whose Are You?

Oh LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me... For You forged my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well...       Psalm 139

Identity marks us, affirms us, singles us out, gives specific details about us. We have many pieces of paper that identify us like driver's license, Social Security number, health insurance cards, military identification, work badges, car registrations, credit cards, business cards; we have official certificates that verify birth, marriage, divorce, and death. We use pictures and numbers and computer chips to create our identity, to track our likes, activity, timeliness, finances, and even our animals. Yet, with all that information floating around, we are "prone to wander" and feel lost.

Despite our vanity and ego-centric nature, humanity is both fragile and broken. Etched deep within our DNA the need to believe in a greater power exists, even if we try deny this. Psalm 139 never gets old. Take a few minutes and read the complete text. Woven into being, created in the likeness of God, intimately known by Him barely begin to describe you and me in Christ. 
"Often in quiet meditation and reflection we discover that we are more than our individual selves and come to realize who we really are. We slowly learn to see, within our very own hearts, the reflection of the One who breathed life into us...who loved us before we were born and before we could love ourselves...We are defined by something deeper and wider..."                    Henri Nouwen, Discernment
God breathes life into our souls, reflects the essence of love, offers each of us grace. He surrounds us, protects us, nourishes us. Without God, our identity is just letters and numbers. Nouwen says, "Our true identity is found in God, who created us in the divine image. We are bearers of God's image and spirit." So, whose are you? Do the people you meet every day know your "real identity" or is that a secret? ~dho

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Good Success in Obedience

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 
Joshua 1:8 ESV  [Scripture links:]

"To act or not to act. To wait or to move. to speak or remain silent. All these can be faithful acts. Living in the presence of God and trusting the Spirit helps us discern right action in everyday life." Henri Nouwen, Discernment

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me an excerpt from a book her Life Group is studying. The book, The Joshua Code by O.S. Hawkins, pastor, author and president of Guidestone Financial Resources, gives 52 Scripture verses that can help the Christian meditate on God's word and keep it close 'day and night'. As our series on discernment nears its end, there are some worthy thoughts from verse 33 in The Joshua Code. First, note the 'Book of the Law' refers to Scripture and is likely referring to Genesis through Deuteronomy. Historically, the Torah consists of the first five books of our Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, which many scholars credit Moses with writing. Secondly, good success is defined as "the ability to find the will of God for your life...and then doing it!" * The Life Application Study Bible explains good success in this context as to "obey God's law, to read and study His Book of Instruction". Discernment must become a way of Christian living, a daily spiritual discipline that seeks, listens, and knows the Spirit's leading.

In seeking God's purpose, too often we get distracted or disillusioned, lost or lethargic. We decide either God's purpose is too grand and we are too small, or we ignore God's plan and choose easier lives of indifference and complacency. Hawkins writes, "Our completed purpose, in the eyes of God, will be to move beyond simply reading and studying the Bible, to an act of obedience as we put these words into practice in our own experience." Ah, and this where it is easiest to make excuses for lack of time or energy, lack of ability or passion; we simply dismiss the Holy Spirit's urgings. Nouwen says, "Our spiritual task is to 'seize the time' - the right time for God's purpose here and now." Like Israel, we can come to the edge of the Promised Land, and we can either choose God's plan or falter, we can be obedient or hesitate. Hawkins concludes, "Here is the true success in life: to stay in the Word of God until we find the will of God so that we can walk in the ways of God. The Word. The will. The walk." ** What will you do? ~dho

* The Joshua Code, OS Hawkins, pg. 167
** The Joshua Code, OS Hawkins, pg. 170

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Sign-post People

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 NASB

The spiritual discipline of prayer and spending time in God's presence are foundational to hearing God's Voice, as well as essential components to serving where God chooses. Discernment can come through experiences and the sign-post people that God allows to cross our paths. Expected and unexpected people influence our journey. From parents to adults-like-parents, siblings to friends of siblings, school teachers and Sunday School teachers, friends and almost-friends, either brief or lasting, historical or current, God uses these encounters to speak to our lives.
God speaks regularly to us through the people who speak to us about the things of God. Henri Nouwen, Discernment
Just this week I saw a post on Facebook from someone I grew up with who was unexpectantly reunited with one of her sign-post people. Her mother recently entered a rehab facility after a fall, and the roommate happened to be her Pre-K Sunday School Teacher
She writes: I sat down and said hello and told her who I was. I mentioned her daughter's name... I told her I used to cry for my mother every Sunday, and she would sit with me at the bottom of the church stairs, waiting for mama. She never looked at me but said, "If you cried, I am sure I held you in my lap and hugged you".
How frequently we forget or dismiss or overlook our many God-appointments; these are the people God sends with words of encouragement, applause for effort, signposts pointing to truth, reminders of His presence, hugs for tears. 

Sign-post people offer new perspectives, ask different questions, and suggest other options. Sometimes they bring opportunities for us, like a chance to give more, to step outside ourselves, to sense another's loneliness, to hear a deeper need, to respond like Christ. God embraces us with love and encouragement but also has designed us for purpose - His purpose. God asks us to take our God-given talents, to reach out into the world, to share Jesus. 

Whether the sign-post marks the way with a stranger or friend, lasts for a season or a lifetime, comes full of mystery or simply as a reminder, God is speaking to you and me. Could it be a completely new direction? a familiar path with a new attitude? a change of location? a closer connection within a current community? a new passion? renewed passion? "God speaks regularly to us through people who talk to us about the things of God." (Nouwen)  Are we listening? Let's not miss our sign-post people! ~dho

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What is Prayer?

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NASB

"The key to this home, this heart of God. is prayer." Foster

Prayer, by definition,  is an intercession, petition, or supplication. Scripture contains many prayers of faithful leaders and followers of God, prayers for healing, direction, peace, strength, forgiveness, wisdom, security, provision. Multiple passages in the Bible reveal Jesus alone in prayer and praying for others. Prayer comes from the lips of doubters and those in need, from hearts frozen with fear and unbelievers reborn, from the sick and weary, from those in desperate situations, from sinners like me. Believers are called to prayer, to never stop praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to pray in the Spirit, to pray with perseverance, to pray for each other. Richard Foster in Sanctuary of the Soul calls prayer "interactive communication and communion with God".
"Prayer is change...interior transformation...into ministry..." Richard Foster, Prayer**
Prayer exceeds inward pleas in desperate times and evolves from a place deeper than need, comes from the soul's core where faith calls out to Hope! Our prayers call out to God exposing our broken hearts, our fragile egos, our emptiest places. Prayer should acknowledge complete dependence on God, and when words fail, the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) Spiritual posture of prayer must embody both humility and honesty, exhibit reverence for God's majesty and trust in God's mystery. Prayer should become the Christian's constant inside activity that is evidenced in outward living. Prayer should transform us into bearers of His Light. Holy Spirit, teach me to pray! ~dho

** I highly recommend Richard Foster's book, "Prayer, Finding the Heart's True Home"