Thursday, April 27, 2023

New Beginnings!

Oh, visit the earth, 
ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
fill the God-River with living water…
scatter rose petals down Your paths,
All through the wild meadows.
Set the hills to dancing…
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
Oh, oh, let them sing!
Psalm 65: 9, 12-13 (The Message)

As the season of new beginnings calls to us in the splendor of His Glory, may our thoughts take notes on the wonders of the Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer, Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser... Dawn and dusk take turns calling, "Come and worship."
Psalm 65:8 The Message

God, mark us with grace and blessing!
Psalm 67:1 The Message


Thursday, April 20, 2023

Perfect Love - the Power to Change the World

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 3:16-17

Coast in South Africa/photo by Allison Oswalt

From prison in Rome, Paul writes to the church in Colosse, a young congregation likely not more than five to six years old. The conflicts then in Colosse are the same here today. Humanity's rules and customs and lack of religious beliefs clash with the true gospel message of grace through Jesus Christ. The endless sources of media flood our minds and home daily with excuses to ignore God's message, with rhetoric to diminish God, with threats to marginalize Christianity. Paul's words that Christ is "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15) exceeds logic and scientific explanation. Although we are not imprisioned in Rome, we find ourselves surrounded by darkness that desires to take us captive

Instead of constantly engaging in verbal retaliation of what's wrong with the world's message, maybe the better approach would be to simply share the majesty and wonder of our God. By allowing the Gospel message to thrive in our lives, we become living testimonies of God's love and compassion, of Christ's humility and grace to those within our spheres of influence. Deep faith, especially in crsis, reveals the magnitude and power of God. Lives full with hope, even in times of difficulty, speak loudly of the God who dwells in us. An attitude of love toward others, whether we agree or disagree, becomes the righteous fruit of worshiping a holy and sovereign God. 

In his letters, Paul frequently utilizes the themes of faith, hope, and love distinguishing them as "gifts from God". He writes, "Above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection." (Colossians 3:14 NKJV) David Jeremiah calls this bond with Perfect Love the "power to change the world." Love within this bond of perfection becomes the living, true Gospel. - dho

*previously published on this blog/part of the “Living the Gospel Series”/dho/2017

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Easter 2023 - Go!

More surely than ever before, I know now that we are called to give our very lives to one another and that, in so doing, we become a true community of love. Henri Nouwen from Life of the Beloved (pg. 115)

The True Vine, Andrew Murray writes of Christ's joy: His joy is nothing but the joy of love, of being loved and of loving. It was the joy of receiving His Father's love and abiding in it, and then the joy of passing on that love and pouring it out on sinners. Christ is Perfect Love offered to imperfect people. Like His disciples and His closest followers, we are imperfect people yet perfectly loved by Jesus.

Read John 20:19-23 (for the complete story of the resurrection, see John 20-21.)

As He spoke, He held out His hands for them to see, and He showed them His side. They were filled with joy when they saw their Lord! He spoke to them again and said, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.
John 20:20-21 NLT

On Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection, Jesus appears to several people, each Gospel giving a similar but varying account of all those who witnessed the risen Savior. John writes of Jesus coming in the evening to the disciples who are meeting behind locked doors fearing the Jewish leaders. Jesus offers them peace and joy; He reminds them this assurance comes from the Father. He breathes the Holy Spirit into them. They are prepared to take the Good News of redemption and reconciliation into the world. The root of Christ's joy is the Father's love.

Jesus gives us the same command today, saying as the Father has sent Me, so send I you. We are to carry the Good News of His amazing grace into the world. We are to build up the community of faith by sharing His love. Christ prepares us with His peace and affirms us with His joy. After Christ returned to Heaven at Pentecost, the Spirit came to dwell within the hearts of all believers. The sure foundation of our joy is Christ ~ Perfect Love.

consider this!

  • Imagine being in the room with the disciples when Jesus "suddenly" appears. Describe their joy!
  • How does Jesus model the task of sharing the Gospel?
  • Have you experienced the resurrected Jesus? How will you share such Perfect Love?

Blessed Assurance ~ You are Eternal Love! I am overwhelmed that the love of the Father and the grace of the Son and the presence of the Spirit are mine! You choose me and love me and send me to be a witness for You. Your unfailing faithfulness and enduring love prepare my heart with peace and joy! You empower me to tell my faith-story. With the joy of Christ, I go! Amen. ~dho

*previously published on this blog/dho/2009

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Lent 2023 - Crucify

We have seen what we are not, and what God wants us to be, but are we willing to be battered into the shape of the vision to be used by God? The beatings will always come in the most common, everyday ways and through common, everyday people. Oswald Chambers from My Utmost for His Highest

The account of the trial and crucifixion of Christ is in all the Gospels. Like reading the Christmas story in Luke each year, this is the day we remember, listen to or read ourselves the recorded history of Jesus' last hours on earth. Unlike the Christmas story, this one is harder to hear. Full of partial truths and truths ignored, betrayals and beatings, cowards and cynics, guilt and innocence, the story lets us walk the Via Dolorosa with Jesus and the crowd as we call, "Crucify! Crucify!"

Read John 18:28-19:42

Jesus fulfills the Scripture, lives God's Plan of salvation for us, willingly and obediently in detail. He is crucified between two thieves, a picture of disgrace and disillusionment for those who doubt Him, those who believe in Him, those who love Him. And the crowd? From Hallelujah! to Crucify! in a week's time, the crowd scatters and scorns with uncertainty. We stand in the crowd, both watching and wondering, fickle and frightened, confused and concerned.

Today, we are still standing in the crowd - we are the everyday people. We either endure the everyday beatings or participate in them. We either determine our worth and applaud our own plans, or we confess our sins and need for Grace. We either seek the world's approval or humbly accept God's plan. We are arrogant or obedient, either rolling the dice for a piece of Jesus or embracing the completeness of Perfect Love. We are the everyday reasons that Jesus is broken bread and poured out wine.

consider this!
  • Why did the Jewish leaders say they wanted Jesus put to death?
  • Did Pilate find Jesus guilty?
  • Matthew 27:35-44; Mark 15:25-32; Luke 23:32-43; John 19:18-27: These are the Gospel's accounts of Jesus being placed on the cross. List all the people around the cross. What names are missing from the list that you would have expected? 

Holy Father ~ My heart comes to the foot of the cross and recognizes Jesus as the Son of the Most High, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. I kneel and bow and weep that my sins nail Him to the cross, place the crown of thorns on His head, mock Him and reject Him. And still, He loves me more than I can understand. He willingly is battered and endures the beatings for me, for all of us. Forgiveness is mine. Grace reigns. Help me seek Your vision for my life. Let me endure what I must to honor You, to give You glory. Holy! Holy! Holy! You are Lord! Amen. ~dho

*previously published on this blog/dho/2009