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