Thursday, March 23, 2023

Lent 2023 - Believe

This is and has been the Father's work from the beginning - to bring us into the home of His heart.  George MacDonald

Despite the miracles Jesus performed, there were those who 
did not believe He was the Christ. There were those who did believe but were afraid to speak up, afraid of rejection or punishment. And still there were others in the crowd who believed, but their faith was fragile and weak. We, too, are standing in the crowd today. What do you choose?

Read John 12:37-50

Many people, including some of the Jewish leaders, believed in Him. But they wouldn't admit it to anyone because of their fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.  John 12:42-43 NLT

Jesus shouted to the crowds, "If you trust Me, you are really trusting God who sent Me." John 12:44 NLT

God's plan from the beginning was to offer us a way back to Him, to offer us salvation. We can read all the books ever written and ask all the questions ever wondered and still not have the evidence that our human minds crave. Grace came into the world in the form of Perfect Love, not in the way the world found logical. How often we choose human praise over God's praise! How seldom we really place our trust in God! Yet, God still chooses us!

consider this!
  • What evidence is necessary to secure your belief in Christ?
  • Using Jesus' words (vs. 44-50), explain Christ's purpose in coming to earth the first time?
  • How does your desire for human praise stand in the way of trusting in God's Plan?

Lord ~ We stand in the crowd watching. Some around us choose the world, and others choose You but are afraid to tell. Then, there are those that choose the Grace that only Perfect Love can give. Forgive us when we find the world's applause more appealing than the Spirit's whispers. Forgive us when we stand in the crowd, and no one knows we stand with You. Amen. ~dho

** previously posted on this blog/2009/dho

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Lent 2023 - Purpose

God by His providence brings you into circumstances that you can't understand at all, but the Spirit of God understands. God brings you to places, among people, and into certain conditions to accomplish a definite purpose through the intercession of the Spirit in you.  Oswald Chambers from My Utmost for His Highest

Situations that we do not understand happen all the time. Disasters, poverty, crime and diseases are part of everyday life. We live in a fallen world; sin rules, and Satan is the prince of darkness. Yet, God can take each of these circumstances ~ especially the hardest ones that are beyond understanding ~ and show us how we can use them to give Him glory.

Read John 9:1-7

Jesus said, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who send me here… I am the world's Light. John 9:3-5 The Message 

In a crisis, the one question that usually remains unanswered is "WHY". Scripture tells us not to waste time assigning blame, rather we are to see God in every circumstance, looking for a way to be the light of Jesus to the world. Will we understand everything then? No! The right questions are How can I best praise God in this crisis? Will others see Jesus in my reactions? Am I turning to God for His vision in difficult times?. 

consider this!
  • In verse 2, what question did the disciples ask Jesus?
  • Did the blind man approach Jesus and ask for healing?
  • How is Jesus improving your vision?

Jesus ~ You are the Great Physician who heals the bruised and broken. How often I think that only means physical healing. You always offer spiritual healing through difficult circumstances. The world blames You when life becomes dark and complicated. But You are Light and Love! Teach me how to praise God in all things, at all times. For His Goodness is everlasting. Amen. ~dho

*previously published on this blog/2009/dho

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Lent 2023 - Love

Our preciousness, uniqueness, and individuality are not given to us by those who meet us in clock-time - our brief chronological existence - but by the One who has chosen us with an everlasting love, a love that existed from all eternity and will last through all eternity. Henri Nouwen from Life of the Beloved (pg. 51)

Tennyson wrote 
I am a part of all that I have met. We are the same - with our experiences mingling and mirroring and monitoring the experiences of those we meet. This is what Nouwen refers to as our brief chronological existence. Yet, more importantly, how do we live?

Read 2 John 1:4-6

I can't tell you how happy I am to learn that many members of your congregation are diligent in living out the Truth . . . Love means following His commandments, and His unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love… 2 John 1:4,6 The Message 

The love John writes about is a Holy Love that God gives to us just because He chooses to love us. Mostly, our finite minds cannot comprehend any person who would love us ~ just as we are. God's generous Love stands ready to shape us into more while we waiver casually in search of self. Truth calls to us conduct your lives in love!

consider this!
  • Think about how consistently you conduct your lives in love.
  • God's commandment is "to love" ~ Was John teaching something new?
  • Are you becoming "more"? Do you credit "clock-time" or "God's Love?

Lord ~ In our every day, the world influences us, tells us partial truths, places unworthy desires in our hearts. The world calls and is unrelenting. But You - You whisper songs of mercy, show us Eternal Truth, embrace us with extravagant love. Why do we choose the world over You? Help us see the One who chooses us! Teach us to be diligent. Amen. ~dho

*previously published on this blog/2009/dho

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Lent 2023 - Truths

Whatever keeps me from my Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to me. A.W. Tozer

The secular response to Christ - if there is any acknowledgement - is that Christ was a great teacher and a good person. The world says there are no absolute truths, that truth is what you believe to be true. The Holy Scriptures, the foundation of the Christian faith, tell a different story. Christ is the Living Son of God, the willing and sinless sacrifice offered for all the iniquities of humanity. He has always been and will always be. Jesus came in human form to earth to fulfill God's Plan of salvation for mankind. There ARE truths that must be part of our faith statement as Christians. Without these absolute truths, we claim a belief in nothing more than good intentions.

Read 1 John 2:18-29

So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will continue to live in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life He promised us. . . you have received the Holy Spirit and He lives within you. . . For the Spirit teaches you all things, and what He teaches is true. 1 John 2:24,27 NLT

Through careful and continued study of the Scriptures, these truths become more clear. God reveals Himself to us today through the Living Word. The Scriptures are both ancient and living words, telling us the stories of old and using these lessons for today. Our struggles in the world are no different than centuries ago. There was unbelief then and unbelief today. Then - time after time, faith required a bold stance in the face of uncertainty, and today - we must continue to stand boldly in faith to our Creator, Redeemer and King.

consider this!
  • How do believers come to more fully understand the character of God?
  • Why does the world dilute and deny the absolute truths in the Scriptures?
  • What do you believe about Christ?

Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me. Father, Son and Spirit ~ three in One ~ we cannot understand Perfect Love, but we can accept this Gift by faith. Give us the courage to grow in understanding of the Living Word, to share the truths about Christ, so we might be light in the darkness. Amen. ~ dho

* 1 John 2:28 The Message - . . . Live deeply in Christ.

*previously published on this blog/2009/dho

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Lenten 2023 - Respond

The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.  Fredrick Buechner

We search the world for meaning, for purpose, for reasons. When the world does not offer wanted answers, we wonder if God has forgotten us. If we pray to God for meaning, for purpose, for reasons, and He does not respond as we expect, we doubt that God is listening. We crave more and more of the world's tokens, collecting the trophies of greed and pride, and we are empty. And still, God calls to us and seeks us ~ wherever we are. God has designed a purpose for each of us ~ a place to serve. God abides with us ~ in all times. Perhaps it is we who have forgotten; it is we who are not listening.

Read 1 John 2:12-17

I remind you, dear children: Your sins are forgiven in Jesus' name. . . And a second reminder, dear children: You know the Father from personal experience. . . Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world - wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important - has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from Him.
1 John 2:12-16 The Message

In a deeping relationship with God, our wants change. We can respond with greater compassion, with quiet humility, with sincere love. We begin to respond to the Father's love. We search the heart, the mind, the soul for His Presence. We find deep gladness.

consider this!
  • When your deep gladness in God merges with the world's deep hunger, what happens?
  • How does a growing personal relationship with God change your wants?
  • What are your God-cravings?

Living Word ~ remain in our hearts ~ guide our thoughts ~ abide with us always. Forgive us when we ignore You. How often we stand at the corner of "Want" and "More," uncertain and unsure! Yet You forgive our selfish ways, call us to a place of deep gladness. Take away our cravings for the world and replace them with cravings for You. Amen. ~ dho

*previously published on this blog/2009/dho

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Lent 2023 - Ash Wednesday

The season of Lent begins today, Ash Wednesday. I pray this will be a season of reflection and your soul finds new intimacy with Christ. May you know spiritual renewal as you spend time remembering Jesus - His Love, His Life, His Gift.

Lord, mark me with ashes as a reminder that I am in need of your grace -dho

Thursday, February 16, 2023

So Many Words!

Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person's lips brings satisfaction. Proverbs 18:20 NLT

We are overloaded with words every day! Words arrive electronically by emails, texts, tweets. Television and podcasts depend on words to convey information, entertainment, and advertisement. Newspapers and magazines and books, either tangible or electronic, infuse our minds with thoughts, ideas, and possibilities. We use words, spoken and written, to express our emotions and our opinions, to share our sympathy and our joy, to defend our decisions and our beliefs. Unfortunately, sometimes in communicating, we choose words that wound and deceive.

Eugene Peterson reminds us, "Words are never mere words - they convey spirit, meaning, energy, and truth." He goes on to say that words reveal and words conceal. Every day I read ancient words composed centuries ago, but they still touch my soul, enrich my living, convict my spirit, encourage my journey. The Holy Bible is composed of words inspired by God and the revelation of The Word sent by God. Mother Teresa is quoted, "Words which do not give the light of Christ, increase the darkness." In a world overflowing with words from sufficient to superfluous, how satisfied is your soul? Do your words increase the light of Christ in the world? Word of Life, be mine! ~dho

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Becoming What You Worship - Part 4

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 becomes 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 hearts’ praises to God.

Music, in its various forms, is central to the worship experience and frequently sets the mood and tone. T
hrough 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, in traditional and contemporary settings, the Worship Leader designs spiritual opportunities and engages the people. In more contemporary styles, this worship time 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!

* previously posted on this blog 10/23/14

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Becoming What You Worship - Part 3

I'm ready, God, so ready, ready from head to toe,
Ready to sing, ready to raise a tune: "Wake up, soul!" Psalm 57:7 The Message

Several years ago I spent the better part of a day touring Daufuskie Island, a ferry ride away, just off the coast of Hilton Head, SC. An island full of rich history and Gullah culture merging with renewal and preservation, my thoughts were captured. We stopped and toured a church still used and small by the standards of today's churches. Out to the side was a small unpainted, wooded structure not bigger than an outdoor garden shed. It was not the original structure built in1823 but a replicated (2002) one. Above the door it read "Praise House."

The Gullah people used this little house as a house of prayer and praise. Apparently, the prayers started quiet and as inspiration led, the prayers would become more intense, eventually becoming 'Praise Shouts'! As I thought about that progression of the moving of the Spirit, I wondered how often is my soul moved to the point of Praise Shouts? And when this happens, do I just contain the joy or does my response raise a tune of praise to the Lord?

Psalm 57:9 The Message: "I'm thanking you, God, out loud in the streets, singing Your praises in town and country."  Try praising God ~ in public! ~dho

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Becoming What You Worship - Part 2

Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly.

As we continue our exploration of worship using Psalm 111, the first verse is an invitation to offer praise to God for His great works and character. “Worship is more than a private experience; it is a public and corporate expression of devotion.” The NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible goes on to include that this “corporate praise” in a “crowd or assembly” is an call to praise God, an opportunity to be thankful. 

In this one verse, two names of God are used, first, Yahweh and secondly, Jehovah. The Bible uses many names for God, all describing different aspects of His character. These two names are what most scholars call the proper names of God, indicating His presence and accessibility. They are often interchanged with each other but are used over 6,000 times in the OT.

The Message reads, “Hallelujah! I give thanks to GOD with everything I’ve got — wherever good people gather and in the congregation.” A hymn of praise “often begins, and sometimes ends, with Hallelujah.” The Apologetics Study Bible continues, to praise or celebrate is our “proper response to all that God has done.” Called to trust and obey and worship God, we offer our praise for His matchless goodness.

One of the most interesting parts of this verse is to praise with all my heart. In OT times, the heart is thought of as all of the inner person - the mind and will and head. When I read to give thanks to GOD with everything I’ve got, it gives me pause. Sometimes I worship with my congregation, and sometimes alone. Other times, I worship with my offerings, offerings of money, of service, of time. When I study God’s Word, I worship His offerings to me - offerings of forgiveness, of grace, of eternal life. In times of crisis, my faith worships a God who is full of goodness to diminish the doubts and anxieties of uncertainty. Corporately and privately, I pray “Your will be done” and how hard that can be when it is not my will. 

Lord, for all You have done, all You have created, healed, mended, renewed, encouraged -HALLELUJAH! with my whole being! Lord, for all the times You wept beside me, embraced my pain, listened to my hurting soul, I offer my worship - HALLELUJAH! with my whole being! Lord - You continue to guide me with whispers… and shouts! Together, wherever good people gather, we will worship You! HALLELUJAH! with our whole beings! -dho 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Becoming What You Worship - Part 1

Read: Psalm 111

For the next few weeks let’s look at Psalm 111, the Scripture reference in last week’s post. The background to this Psalm gives us insight into its writing. Commentaries describe it as an “acrostic” poem; written originally in Hebrew, each line starts with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. As we read it in English, we miss this poetic nature. The theme of Psalm 111 is the goodness of God, and we can see this goodness in His great wonders and works!

Great are the works of the LORD; they are studied by all who delight in them.

Sometimes we are afraid of what we don’t understand, of things we can’t explain, but the wonders of God exceed all of this. Our words seem inadequate to describe these creations of God, these mysteries of the universe. The psalm goes on to use words like “splendid” and “majestic” as offerings to characterize the indescribable, the stars and planets, the heavens and the earth, space and gravity, the human body and an individual cell. All of these have been studied, with new and amazing observations still being discovered. Standing at the ocean shore at sunset, we find ourselves wordless as the beauty of the setting and the wonder of the tides whisper glory to our souls. God holds us with grace and love. The mysteries of God delight our curiosities, stir our hearts to seek more of Him.

According to the Moody Bible Commentary, this psalm, both a wisdom psalm and a praise psalm, we have our “essential motivation for all worship”. Worship is an expression of love or reverence for something, and in Christianity, the focus of our worship is God! His majesty and enduring righteousness, the provisions for and redemption of His people, the purity of truth and justice in His actions, and His immense blessings are reasons to worship God.

His miracles are His memorial — This GOD of Grace, this GOD of Love. (Vs 4, MSG)

God’s wonders cause my soul to bow in worship. God’s miracles bring shouts and applause! What an amazing, holy God! And that He chooses me to be part of His Kingdom… mystery for sure! The beautiful hymn, Worthy of Worship, comes to mind, each verse so perfectly written. The chorus uses some of the names we call God - Father, Creator, Savior, Sustainer. Truly, God, You are worthy and wonderful, worthy of worship and praise! - dho

* “Worthy of Worship” is written by Mark Blankenship, Terry W. York, 1988

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Thoughts on a New Year

 Hallelujah! I give thanks to GOD with everything I've got - Whenever good people gather, and in the congregation. GOD's works are so great, worth a lifetime of study - endless enjoyement! Splendor and majesty mark His craft; His generosity never gives out. His miracles are His memorial - The GOD of Grace, this GOD of Love. 

Psalm 111:1-4 The Message

In a television commercial, a child incorrectly says the familiar phrase New Year's Resolution as New Year's 'Revolution'! While quite humorous, it is not so far off the mark. According to the dictionary, revolution can be defined as a sudden, complete or marked change in something. Grace is like a revolution. When Grace is invited, it comes suddenly, completely and markedly changes us for ever! Perhaps what most of us really need is a spiritual revolution this new year! Maybe this is the year to reach new depths of intimacy with Christ. Maybe this is the year to fully commit to living for Jesus, to living like Jesus. 

As this new year begins, completely commit to something that will encourage your spiritual growth, some activity that will deepen your relationship with Christ. Maybe this is the year to join a Bible Study group, volunteer to teach a Sunday School Class, lead a prayer team, go on a mission trip, or become part of a faith project in your own church or community. Often these require one to step outside the familiar, outside a comfort zone. Listen! What is God calling you to do that will markedly change you forever?

Personal spiritual growth can involve setting a daily devotional time, reading the Bible and praying. There are many books and online options. You can choose a Bible verse that will inspire and help direct your spiritual journey for the year. Simply get out your Bible and pray for God to lead you to a specific verse to grow you. Claim it! Memorize it! Post it! Share it! Study it! Or, maybe you need a word for the year - just one word- that will help you focus on Christ, discern His will, encourage your heart, and bring you peace. If you are into social media, one recent suggestion I read is to choose several of your Facebook friends and pray for them, chooisng new ones each week or so. Tell them you are praying for them, asking if they have specific needs. LISTEN! PRAY! STUDY! God will help you discover His unique path for you this year. 

Whether you make New Year's resolutions or not, I believe God is always calling us to greater spiritual growth. Any moment, unexpected circumstances cause sudden, complete or marked change. Will you be ready spiritually for such a life-revolution? Will you know how to find comfort in God's Holy Word? Will you be prepared to pray for others in crisis? Will you be able to share God's word with someone in need? Spending time with God - praying, studying, and listening - prepares us to help others, provides us with words to reassure, comfort, and encourage another. Consistently seeking God's Presence grows deep spiritual roots of faith and trust, of love and hope in Christ. This GOD of Grace, this GOD of Love...His Hallelujah lasts forever! ~dho

Consider this:
- READ Psalm 111
- Journal your thoughts

Thursday, January 05, 2023

What Will You Choose for 2023?

As I think about 2023, a new year, a fresh start, another new beginning, I wonder what will I choose? There are infinite possibilities of tasks or deeds, books to read, people to spend time with, places to visit. And so many words to consider, to define, to understand, to believe or question, to savor, to share. What I choose to do or what I choose not to do makes a mark in time, influences or hinders, comforts or grieves, encourages or diminishes. 

What will I choose? Within the margins of study and prayer, service and sharing of knowledge or inspiration stand a multitude of good options. All the while, outside the margins, the world teases and taunts without concern for wisdom or discernment, with self-serving quests carrying banners that falsely promise freedom or love or security. At times, the lines between the margins blur. 

If we are honest, we all live between the margins. Unpredictability and uncertainty are always present and probable. Hopes and failures, joys and sorrows, questions and answers, living and dying, all these contrary realities walking together become the paradox of life. On the night that Jesus is arrested, He tells His chosen disciples that they are about to desert Him, scatter to their own homes, and abandon Him. Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Peace within the tribulation; living between the margins.

Most of life is not neat and tidy, folded, organized, or indexed. If we only choose to stay within the careful margins, or “scatter to our own homes” for safety, we will miss the places that need us most. There is a song lyric that says, “break my heart, Lord, for what breaks Yours.” These places are always outside the margins, in places of uncertainty, in the depths of loneliness, in the poverty of brokenness. We when choose to cross these margins, we wade into those promises of difficulties in this world, but we also rest in the promises of His peace. The Message uses the words “you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace.”

Jesus calls us to “take courage” as we travel the unpredictable and uncertain journeys of this crazy world. Our faith and obedience to God’s voice becomes the only true yet intangible guide. Only God is immutable, our abiding constant who navigates and provides and sustains us. What will I choose? I choose the paradox of life, peace in the tribulations. I choose to live between the margins with Jesus, faithful and true! - dho