Why Stand Ye Gazing?

Why Stand Ye Gazing?

“And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?” (Acts 1:9-11)

Recently I was asked to speak in a church on a Sunday morning. This church had taken several weeks to observe the biblical accounts leading up to Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, and continued on following the events that ensued after the empty tomb.

I was requested to speak on the ascension of Christ, which occurred forty days after His resurrection.

When my dear friend invited me to speak on this subject, I immediately began to weep. This may sound strange, but I felt I suddenly had a very clear perspective on how the disciples must have felt at that moment.

As you know, my wife Linda passed away on December 30 of last year. This has been, without a doubt, the toughest stretch of my life…ever! We were married for 54 years, we dated for five years before marriage, so we had known and loved each other for almost 60 years. A lifetime of loving relationship suddenly came to an abrupt halt!

Memories of the first date, the first time we held hands and the first kiss; memories of our wedding, starting life and ministry together, as well as memories of our first child, then our second child and eventually six grandchildren. A lifetime of wonderful memories of trips, adventures, friends and family, and the list goes on and on.

Then there were also the difficult moments throughout the journey; the initial cancer diagnosis in 1987 and subsequent challenges all along the way thereafter. Surgeries, chemo, scans, and medical protocols too numerous to mention defined so much of our life together. But these things only served to strengthen and grow our love and commitment to one another.

However, at 9:37am, December 30, 2023, when Linda passed from this life into the eternal presence of God, all earthly experience and memory making stopped for us.

As I began to live and experience life without Linda, especially in the first couple months, I would often think and say to myself (and others), “How can she just be gone?” It was so final! It was the realization that I would never again, in this life, see Linda.

This, I believe, is what the disciples are feeling at this moment as they witness their blessed Savior and friend being taken up out of their sight. Surely they must have thought, “How can He just be gone?”

Though Jesus and His disciples only walked and worked together for about three years, think of all the memories these followers of Jesus had accumulated.

They remembered His initial call and must have sometimes wondered at their immediate resolve to forsake all and follow this man from Galilee. Oh the miracles they witnessed: water into wine, blind eyes made to see, deaf ears to hear. The feeding of the four and five thousand must have been miracles that incited frequent conversation amongst the disciples. “How did He do that?”

Jesus raised the dead, cleansed lepers, walked on water, calmed nature’s fury, and as John stated at the conclusion of his gospel account, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written” (John 21:25).

But now, suddenly, taken up and away from them. “How can He just be gone?”
The disciples must have reflected on the teaching they had heard from the Master; at times having mysteries revealed to them, and only them.

They certainly had known sorrow and tragedy as this Savior, friend, and master was blasphemed, tortured, crucified, and buried.

Oh, but what joy to hear and see that the tomb was empty, and to literally see Him alive again on more than one occasion after witnessing His certain death. For forty days He appeared to His disciples after He was resurrected. Surely they must have begun

to wonder if perhaps He was back to stay awhile longer. But then, suddenly, after giving the apostles some final instructions, He is caught up in the clouds, and gone…just like that!
In this moment the disciples, and we, learn three very important things.

1. He ascends to the right hand of the Father where He began His intercessory prayer ministry. “When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high “ (Hebrews 1:3). “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).

When you say amen, He still prays. When you lay your weary head down at night, having exhausted your vocabulary of prayer and you say, “In Jesus name, amen.” He still prays!

Not only this, but His Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf as well, perfecting our inarticulate mumblings into beautiful petitions fit for the King’s ears. “For we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

Charles Spurgeon said, “Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers which cannot be refused.”

2. Before He ascended, Jesus told His disciples, “John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

This is perhaps one of the most significant events in all of biblical history! Think how important and significant the presence of God was down through the history of God’s people.

The awesome fear of God’s presence on the mountain with Moses, the indescribable reverence and fear of God in the ark and tabernacle, and the smoke filling the temple as God’s presence descends upon and among His people. But now, this is something completely different, almost unfathomable. God is going to literally dwell within every true believer by His own Holy Spirit. The apostles and we believers will now have an intimacy with our creator unthinkable heretofore.

We will be indwelt by His Spirit, filled with His Spirit, baptized by His Spirit! We will be gifted, empowered, comforted and taught by His very own Spirit. When Jesus said, “It is to your advantage that I go away, but I will send another…the Holy Spirit”; little did the apostles or we ourselves comprehend the truth and power of that statement!

3. “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11).

So here is the announcement of His coming back again. Paul gives a stunning description of what this will look like. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).

What a body of information the disciples (and we) are given in the midst of this farewell departure called Christ’s ascension.

He and the Holy Spirit will be interceding for us continually. His literal presence will dwell within us by the person of the Holy Spirit. And…He’s going to come back to receive us unto Himself forever.

I can almost see the two angels dressed in white saying to the disciples, “Guys, what are you looking at? Why stand ye gazing? Did you hear what has been said?”

The disciples at that moment felt like they were witnessing some kind of ending, but in reality, it could be said, “And so it began!”

We…you and I, have the amazing perspective of biblical history and revelation. We have the understanding and experience of being indwelt by His Holy Spirit. We also are closer to His coming than any who have ever lived, and we see and feel the tension and excitement of His soon return. Thus, we should be most active, most passionate, and most abandoned to His will. We must discern the signs of the times in which we live!

The disciples moved from that point of Christ’s ascension to lives of total service and sacrifice for the cause of the kingdom and the name of Jesus, even to the giving of their lives. I don’t think they were ever asked again, nor should we be asked, “Why Stand Ye Gazing?”


In Christ,
Dallas Holm

A Letter to My Friends

A Letter to My Friends

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

I wanted to write a more personal letter to all our friends who have stood with us through the years, prayed for us, supported us, and more recently, expressed such love and sympathy regarding Linda’s passing.

As you noticed, I still say “us” as I write this letter, because Linda was as much a part of this ministry as I ever was. The “us” also reflects our daughter Jennifer, who takes care of much of the business of Praise Ministries and has on many occasions, through the years, joined us as we traveled and ministered. Likewise, our son Jeffrey has often joined us as we ministered, at times accompanying us on bass guitar. We’ve always been a truly “close” family, whether at home, on the road, or separated by many miles.

We received so many cards, letters and emails from friends all over the world assuring us of their sympathy and prayers. I want you to know I read every card and letter that was sent. They all were a blessing beyond words and provided a comfort that was palpable.

Many of you shared your experiences of saying goodbye to a loved one or friend who had passed from this life. Your testimonies gave me comfort and hope.

I love that verse from 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 because it gives explanation as to why we suffer some of the things we do. Yes, sickness, death, and loss are all byproducts of the reality of sin that entered the world and permeates every aspect of our present environment. However, God, always the redeemer, takes that which was meant for evil and uses it for good.

Because of your sorrow and sadness, which required His comfort, you now were able to comfort me. In turn, I will be able to offer a very real comfort to others because of the comfort I have received.

The verse assures us that, “The sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance.” We surely know that in these times of extreme sorrow and sadness! But it goes on to say, “So also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”

Let me assure you and encourage you that even in the furnace of affliction, in the deep waters of sorrow, and amidst the dark days of painful loss, His grace really is sufficient, and His comfort is real.

I know this because, “The Bible tells me so!” We used to sing that as kids in Sunday School, but little did we realize then how exceedingly valuable that truth would be later on. I know His comfort is real also because you comforted me in my time of need with that same comfort you once received and appropriated from our dear Savior. Thank you!

People ask me daily, and I’m sure some of you are wondering… “how are you doing?” I think, by God’s grace, I’m doing exceptionally well considering I just said goodbye, for my remaining time on earth, to my wonderful, precious, and beautiful wife of 54 years.

I’ll never get over this, and I shouldn’t, but by God’s grace and mercy, I will get through it.

Today, I was listening to a Billy Graham crusade recorded in England during the 1980’s. He was introducing his wife Ruth to the audience. At one point in his introduction of her he said, “People often ask me, who is the best Christian you’ve ever known?” He responded by saying, “My wife!”

I wept as I heard him say that because that’s exactly how I feel about my wife, Linda. She’s the best Christian I’ve ever known!

There was no one, in all the world, for whom I had more respect and admiration.

I knew this season would be tough, but I didn’t know how tough (at times) it would be. Yes, there have been some days of such loneliness that I thought, “I don’t know how I’ll do this.”

But then God’s grace and comfort visit me in ample proportion and I move forward and take the next step.

I can sing:

I’m pressing on the upward way
New heights I’m gaining every day
Still praying as I’m onward bound
Lord plant my feet on higher ground


(Higher Ground
Oatman Jr./Gabriel)

And He is guiding me to higher ground; ordering each step as I journey on.

I covet your continued prayers for my family and myself. The journey continues, but I know what to expect upon arriving at my final destination: Heaven, Jesus, the saints and angels, and so much more. And, of course, Linda…wonderful, beautiful and perfectly healed Linda.

No more sin, no more sickness, no more pain, no more death! Will Heaven be great or what!?

Thank you for allowing me this moment of transparency, of emotional outlet, and for the opportunity to just express my gratitude, on behalf of my family and myself, in This Letter to My Friends.

In Christ,
Dallas Holm

Next Time it Will Be Forever

Next Time it Will Be Forever

I just said goodbye to someone I love
Never pass this way again
The time we had just wasn’t enough
And it hurts to reach the end
A whole lifetime is really no time at all
Just a moment then it’s gone
But next time it will be forever
Then our hearts will be renewed
There we’ll always be together
Next time it will be forever

(Next Time it Will Be Forever Chain of Grace 1992 Dallas Holm)

It is with tremendous sadness, but with exceedingly more joy, that I share with you that on the morning of 12/30/2023, my precious wife Linda stepped from this life into the eternal glories of Heaven. Face to face with Jesus, reunited with family and friends gone before, and amidst the host of Heaven; what a reward for a life well lived!

Linda battled breast cancer for half of her life. However, 37 years of prayers for her healing were answered at the moment of her passing; and more wonderfully and completely than could have ever been hoped for here on earth.

Thank God that outside of some challenging moments along the way in her life’s journey, and significant diminishment in the last months of her life here on earth, she really enjoyed abundant life and amazingly good health.

Cancer left its mark on her body but it could not remove the joy in her heart, the determination in her mind, nor the smile on her face, even as she prepared for her “promotion” to Heaven.

Linda passed peacefully from this life to the next. We observed our 54th wedding anniversary three days before she passed. We were and are abundantly blessed!

When Linda was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, she wondered if she would live to see our then 13 year old daughter graduate from high school.

She saw both our daughter Jennifer and our son Jeffrey graduate from high school. She saw Jennifer marry Jason, our wonderful son-in-law, and rejoiced with unspeakable joy as their marriage produced our first four grandchildren; Jacob (22), Sophia (21), Alex (15), and Caleb (11).

Linda saw our son Jeffrey marry Jennifer (lots of J’s in our family), our precious daughter-in-law, and continue to rejoice with gratitude for our next two grandchildren; Ava (9) and Quinn (1 ½).

If I were to attempt to list all the many blessings of our lives and marriage, there would be neither time nor space to tell of God’s goodness.

Many of you have stood with us through this journey and prayed for us often. Thank you doesn’t seem enough, but Thank You! Thank you for all the comments on FaceBook, the emails, texts, and cards offering condolences. I’ve read each and every one and they have blessed, comforted, and strengthened me greatly.

I’m doing well, all things considered. When I get emotionally blindsided, I purpose to think of where Linda is and how she is. No more cancer, no more treatments, no more discomfort, and no more death. The list goes on, but I take great comfort in knowing her present location in Paradise in her glorified body is a blessing beyond comprehension.

One day (soon) there will be the New Heaven and New Earth experienced in not just a glorified, but a resurrected body. It just keeps getting better!

In going through Linda’s things in recent days, I came across several notebooks which she had written in over the years; usually as she was having her daily time of Bible study and prayer.

The following illuminates the depth of her understanding of Scripture and the level of intimacy she maintained always with our Lord and Savior.

In reading one verse in Proverbs 30:31 which describes things that are stately when they walk, she expressed herself fully from just the one line, “A king with his army around him.”

Linda wrote, “My mind went straight to You Lord, and how true this is. You are praised by Your army. Your army is made up of totally weak, inadequate, sinful people who have been pursued, redeemed, equipped, trained, and made ready by Your Blood, by Your Wisdom, by Your Strength, Your Love, and Your great Promises. You are lifted high. You Lord Jesus are so very generous. You give always and then You promise to share through eternity. Your “army” brings nothing. We come to You sad and broken, full of rot, and You give joy for sins forgiven! You give wholeness in spirit, mind, and body. You give strength, wisdom, purpose, and You equip perfectly. You meet every need, each desire, and Your timing is perfect! My response is to bow in awe, to cry tears of amazement, to rejoice and express my gratefulness in living for You; displaying my relationship with You to those I come in contact with.

Jesus…be lifted up! I place You high and look to You for everything. Great are You my King!”

Scripture says that, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Linda has spoken. Her words are saturated with Godly perspective and deep gratitude. I miss everything about Linda; her joy and laughter, her breathtaking beauty, her grace and poise, but most of all, her inner, spiritual strength and holy centeredness.

She was (and is) a truly amazing woman! I will see her again, and…Next Time it Will Be Forever!

The Last Christmas

What thoughts does the title of this Praiseletter create in your mind? What if, in fact, you knew or strongly supposed that this Christmas would be the last Christmas? What would change, and how differently would you approach this coming holiday season celebrating the birth of Christ?

Initially, while contemplating writing this last letter of the year, which by the way is Praiseletter #245, dating all the way back to 1981, I thought of just titling it Merry Christmas. It occurred to me that just writing a warm Christmas greeting to all of our dear friends, reflecting on some of the memories of the past year and past Christmases, and directing our focus once again on the real meaning of Christmas might be enough.

Linda and I do want to sincerely wish for you and yours a truly Merry Christmas. We want to somehow express to you how much your friendship and partnership with our ministry means to us. We see all the letters, emails, and posts that assure us of your love, your prayers, and your support. Thank you is not an adequate expression of our gratitude, but from the bottom of our hearts (to the top)…Thank you!

The beautiful handmade cards and pictures we receive from Craig and Sheri adorn our tabletops and desks. They bring blessing and beauty to our lives! Rick and Melodie hold the record for most Dallas Holm concerts attended…over one hundred and counting. Their Christmas and birthday cards, their encouragement, and their friendship are a gift of far greater value than anything that will lay under our Christmas tree.

Ed and Pauline send us a note every month assuring us of their love and prayers. This genuine love was expressed so tangibly a few years back when, while ministering near where Ed and Pauline live, our son Jeffrey was struck for the first time with a severe panic attack while traveling with me. Not knowing what was happening, we took Jeffrey to the ER for assessment. While waiting on doctors, nurses, and test results, Ed and Pauline sat in the waiting room and prayed for us. I’m pretty good with words, but I simply have no words to express what that act of love meant to us.

I could go on and on with similar stories and accounts of love, encouragement, and support expressed by so many just like you! I wish I could. Linda and I see and know your names. We read what you write. We’re aware of your unwavering and often longtime support of our ministry. Again…thank you!

We, therefore, do wish you a very Merry Christmas. But…what if this is the last Christmas? Why would I ask such a question? We know this: one day there will be a last Christmas. Why not this one?

Is there anything that would suggest we might be coming to the “finish line”? If your eyes and ears are open, if you’ve been paying attention, especially in the last couple years, you must have noticed the increase in evil, the violence, and depravity that is on full display all around us, and the acquiescence to such sinfulness by those in governmental authority and even in church leadership. Scripture is pretty clear about what the world will look like before Jesus returns. What we’re seeing play out all around us on a daily basis seems to fit the biblical description of the end times, does it not?

On October 7th, we saw the horrific, unspeakable, and unimaginable atrocities visited upon Israeli citizens by terrorists of the worst kind. As we’ve heard the reports and witnessed the reality of babies being slaughtered on October 7th, we too remember the slaughter of babies by Herod around the time of Christ’s birth. Evil persists!

As I write this letter, the war rages on and strongly hints at expanding into a much larger, if not global, conflict. We are accelerating towards the “finish line” it seems to me. I’ve lived in Texas for many years now. I like to think that perhaps at this very moment, if we could peer into Heaven, we would see them “saddling up the horses,” getting “ready to ride,” if I can put it in Texas terms.

I believe in the Rapture, or “catching away,” of the saints…the true Church. Paul instructs the church of Thessalonica concerning this matter when he writes, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” I Thessalonians 4:16-17.

This is not referring to the Second Coming when Christ returns to earth with the saints. I believe this “catching away” to meet Him in the air occurs before the Great Tribulation. I know there are several different views on these events. I have very dear friends, for whom I have the utmost respect and appreciation, who believe the church will go through the tribulation.

There’s so much we could discuss about this, but let me just offer that in view of the fact that the Great Tribulation is an outpouring of the wrath of God, such as the world has not seen; it seems inconsistent to view the cross as the place where God’s wrath toward sin was satisfied “once for all,” only to be revisited upon the redeemed in the time of the Great Tribulation.

I realize I will probably receive letters and emails offering differing opinions on this matter, but that is, in its simplest form, my understanding of these events.

Why do I share this at this time? Because no matter how you view the chronology of these end times events, I believe we can all agree that what we are witnessing on the world’s stage strongly suggests the end is near. I don’t know when the Lord will return, nor do you. However, we do know this; that we are far closer to His return than any people have ever been!

So…back to the original intent of this letter. What if this is the last Christmas?

Would you spend more money on bigger presents? Would you decorate your house more extravagantly? Would you get a bigger tree and have a better Christmas party?

I suspect that none of these things would matter much if this was the last Christmas. Let’s be encouraged and challenged more to consider with greater clarity and passion our being given the greatest gift ever! Let us look for ways to share that most precious gift of Jesus with others.

Last of all, let us discern by the truth of His Word and His Spirit that indwells us, the signs of the times, that are brighter and clearer than the most extravagant display of Christmas lighting!

Let’s celebrate the season and focus on its true significance as though it was The Last Christmas! It may just be.

Reason To Hope

“Oftentimes, the surest way to succeed in the midst of a trial is to accept the fact that everything that comes to the life of the humble and faithful servant of God is from His own hand. Once the assurance is gained that God knows exactly what He’s doing, one can rest in the fact that it is a shared trial, in the clearest sense. When we see Him in the furnace with us, then we’ll begin to see the doorway to deliverance into a new realm of freedom and liberty.”
(Mile Markers Devotional/September 7)

I have a copy of the Mile Markers Devotional book on my kitchen table. Not every morning but often I read the devotional thought for the day before I eat breakfast.

This may seem strange, if not somewhat egotistical, to read my own writings, but I do this for a couple reasons.
First of all, after writing 365 devotional thoughts, I can’t remember all that I wrote so I like to refresh my memory.
Secondly, and more importantly, I like to consider my family and friends, who are reading the book daily and think about how the present devotional thought might impact their lives.

On September 7 when I read the aforementioned devotion, we had only recently learned that Linda’s cancer had “blossomed” in her liver. Blossomed was the term her oncologist used.

This hit us pretty hard. We’ve been at similar junctures in our 37 year battle against this disease, but this was “new territory.”

Linda was immediately taken off the treatment she had been on and placed on a newer and stronger immunotherapy/chemo treatment. She’s handled this new treatment quite well, all things considered. She has not been nauseous or sick, thank the Lord! She has lost her beautiful white hair (at least most of it) and deals with episodes of fatigue and unsteadiness at different times in the cycle of treatments. As I write this letter, she’s feeling pretty good and mentioned that perhaps we could go out this evening for some good Italian food.

I share this information for a couple reasons. We want to update you on our situation and ask for prayer. So many have prayed through the years and continue to make inquiries regarding Linda’s health.

In addition and of equal importance is the realization that many of you also have perhaps received some alarming news, suffered some significant loss, or maybe feel yourself slowly drifting toward some degree of hopelessness.

And it is here I hope to offer some encouragement. Immediately after I read that devotional thought on September 7th, I believe the Holy Spirit prompted me from within to not only think, but to speak out loud to myself, “We have more reason to hope than we have to fear!”

Join with me right now; put your name and situation in the “blank space” (as they say) and say it out loud to yourself and to any or all who might need to hear: “WE HAVE FAR MORE REASON TO HOPE THAN WE HAVE TO FEAR!”

On what basis, you may ask. On the basis of the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word.

“For all the promises of God in Him (Jesus) are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
I like the NASB rendering of this verse: “For as many as the promises of God are, in Him they are yes; therefore through Him also is our Amen to the glory of God through us.”

“As many as the promises of God are…” How many promises does God make in scripture? I could here begin to make an exhaustive list of all the promises of scripture. I have neither time nor space. However, I encourage you to consider searching scripture and making just such a list.

This verse is not proposing or promoting the idea (as many false teachers have) that the outcome to your prayers will be realized just the way you desire.

Remember, the Lord promises that, “In this world you will have tribulation.” The Psalmist, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous…” Paul, the apostle, writes, “But we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance…”

Tribulation, afflictions, and suffering are also promises of God from scripture. Wouldn’t that be a popular sermon title!
But, it’s true. 2 Corinthians 1:20 is saying that all God’s promises are sure. You can count on them absolutely. Tribulation is sure, but so is the promise that we can “take courage” because Jesus has overcome the world, from whence come our tribulations. Afflictions are sure, but so is the promise that He will deliver us out of all our afflictions, in this life or the next. Suffering is sure, but so is the promise of perseverance, character, and hope that suffering produces”…because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

The Yes, in 2 Corinthians 1:20, is the absolute surety that all that has been promised by God in scripture will be experienced by every true believer.

The Amen in that verse, which we often think of as merely an end word to our prayers, is actually, “so be it.”

We have presented our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), right? We are crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), right? We have died, “…and our life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3), right?

Then, come what may, we can say: “Amen (so be it) to the glory of God through us.”

Does this mean we don’t or shouldn’t ask for help, healing, deliverance, and on and on?

No, of course not. He bids us come and make all our requests known. (Philippians 4:6-7) “Come boldly (or with confidence) before the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need” (Hebrews 4:16).

“Cast all your cares upon Him for He cares for you (I Peter 5:7).

Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking (Luke 11:9).

Remember in that September 7 devotional it spoke of a “shared trial”? It really is. He’s always in “the furnace” with us. He knows our needs before we know what to ask. And, the writer of Hebrews assures us that He, as our high priest, is literally “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.”

All of His promises are sure. Every one of them! They are the Yes. We are the Amen, or so be it, to the glory of God through us.

Always remember: God does His best work in our worst times. “In our weakness, His strength is perfected.” The ropes that bound those three Hebrew boys were loosed in the furnace, not outside of it.
The furnace being heated, the dark clouds gathering on the horizon, and the pronouncement of some bad news can all initiate fear, but…we have far more Reason to Hope!

Prayer Warriors

Most will never see their faces; Never know their name
What they do they do alone; They don’t need the fame
On their knees they touch the Lord; Knowing He will care
And change the things that man can’t change; With a simple prayer

They are prayer warriors fighting on their knees
True soldiers in the Lord’s army
Front liners ready every hour
Doing battle constantly with supernatural power

The preceding lyrics are from the song, Prayer Warriors, which was recorded on the Change the World album in 1985. The album was really the result of a conversation I had with a fellow Christian artist, Sheila Walsh. Sheila and I, as well as several other Christian artists, were in “The Green Room” at an artist retreat in Colorado. As we were waiting for our cue to take the stage and present our music, we engaged in conversation about spiritual warfare. Sheila was very passionate about the topic so she shared and I listened. Soon, one of the program directors called for Sheila to take the stage. I remained in the Green Room for another 20-30 minutes, reflecting on our conversation.

I had certainly heard the term “spiritual warfare” before, but I don’t think up until that point I had seriously considered what that meant and what implications it held for me and the Christian community as a whole.

From that rather brief conversation, ongoing study of God’s Word, and much prayer, I gained a clear and challenging understanding of the reality of spiritual warfare. I was also motivated to write the songs for the Change the World album, which would address the spiritual warfare issue.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB).

This verse, perhaps more clearly and specifically than any other (and there are many others), highlights and articulates the spiritual battle that rages continually. This is a battle we’re each engaged in. There is no sitting this one out!

The question is, are you a prayer warrior? Are you a frontliner? As the song’s imagery asks; are you a true soldier in His army, fighting in prayer on your knees? Are you ready every hour to do battle?

I recently had the privilege to lead a men’s bible study on this very topic. I asked the men if they had been involved in sports while growing up. Most raised their hand and said they had. Some played football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, and other sports. I questioned them about the different kinds of training and preparation they’d endured to prepare themselves to succeed on game day. Wind sprints seemed to win out as perhaps the least liked and most grueling exercise.
I then asked the men what percentage of their efforts were spent in preparation for their sport of choice compared to the percentage of time actually realized competing in the sport on game day. We all agreed that probably somewhere around 90% (perhaps more) of our time was spent practicing, conditioning, and preparing for the 10% (maybe less) of time we actually
played the sport in competition.

Did you know that in the average NFL game, which usually lasts 3-3.5 hours, there are only 11-12 minutes of actual playing time? If you total up all the plays from the time the ball is snapped till the play is whistled dead, the actual cumulative total time actually played is 11-12 minutes. But to compete at that highest level, one must train off-season, during the season, hours, days, weeks, and months to succeed in that gridiron battle.

Now, what does all this have to do with prayer and spiritual warfare? I think we can all agree that if one didn’t train, prepare, and practice in sports, there should be no expectation to succeed.

Yet, too often we treat prayer as some minimal exercise and burdensome obligation. We take a hit-and-miss approach to the absolute necessity of the discipline and privilege of prayer and then wonder why we don’t succeed more in our spiritual life. The world, the flesh, and the devil are always and ever conspiring to defeat us. The devil seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. Prayer is a most powerful weapon against that which seeks to defeat us.

An old saint was once asked, “Which is more important: reading God’s Word or praying?” To which he replied, “Which is more important to a bird: the right wing or the left?”

I’ve often said, “We talk to God through prayer, He talks to us through His Word.”

They are both equally important, but for our purposes here, I want to establish the absolute necessity of a consistent and fruitful prayer life. We could discuss many purposes for prayer, but let’s focus on four that I think merit consideration: Adoration, Thanksgiving, Repentance, and Petition.

Adoration: Take time always in prayer to just glorify and adore our Holy God. Extol His divine nature and marvelous attributes. Proclaim His eternal power, His love, His mercy, and His grace. Examples: Psalm 18:1-3, Psalm 145:1-6

Thanksgiving: Be thankful for who He is and what He has done. Recall His many benefits. Even in difficulty, we are more blessed than distressed. Examples: Psalm 7:17, Psalm 95:1-3

Repentance: Always pray with a repentant heart. Confess your sins, apologize for your offenses, and receive His cleansing and forgiveness by grace through faith. Move forward. Don’t remember against yourself that which He has promised to forget. Examples: 2 Chronicles 7:14, 1 John 1:9

Petition: Never be afraid to itemize your requests. We often are too vague in our prayers; we can never be too specific. David Wilkerson once said, “Get specific with God and He’ll get specific with you.” Examples: Philippians 4:6, Hebrews 4:16

These scriptural examples of prayers of adoration, thanksgiving, repentance, and petition are only the “tip of the iceberg.” Let me encourage you to search the scriptures and find many other verses relating to these topics. It will encourage your faith.

Search out scriptures, especially in the Psalms, and pray these verses. The joining of prayer to scripture and scripture to prayer is a powerful thing!

Finally, let me offer a few practical helps to praying: Start with Thanksgiving and Praise.

Consider the greater needs first, such as the Persecuted Church, nations, missionaries, and others first before your own needs.

Imagine the Lord standing next to you or sitting by you at the table or in your car. Talk to Him as a friend.

Pray in the Spirit. Trust in His Spirit to intercede when your vocabulary is exhausted. “Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers which cannot be refused.” (Spurgeon)

All these which I’ve offered in this letter are really so brief and basic compared to what could be discussed in the realm of prayer. I hope and pray these simple thoughts help and encourage you to “go deeper” in prayer.

In the solitude of prayer; Victories are won
With the help of Heaven’s power; They will overcome
As one chorus fighting now; Warriors press on
Bringing strongholds to the ground; With a prayerful song

We are Prayer Warriors!

Be Holy

“Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”

-I Peter 1:13-16

In this edition of the Praiseletter, I want to point our attention to a most powerful and relevant portion of scripture.

I also want to update you in regard to Linda’s and my health. So many have written and emailed with concerns for our health and assurance of their prayers. This has been a blessing beyond words.

Lastly, I want to share information about something new that will be available to you this month. I’m personally extremely excited about this new project I’ve just completed. I think it will be a tremendous blessing to you and hopefully many others.

But first, let us examine this rich portion of scripture from I Peter. I’ve read and studied God’s Word for many years now. You know how it is; you read and re-read the scriptures but then all of a sudden one day, a portion of scripture you’ve read many times before seems to jump off the page and challenge your thinking anew. This was the case with me as I once again read this verse. I was challenged by the absolute necessity to be holy, and not just holy in some sort of quantifiable behavioral sense, but holy as He is holy!

Scripture teaches us to, “Pursue peace with all people, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). No one will see the Lord without holiness. That’s an arresting statement!

A.W. Tozer writes: “This is the true divine order: first, reconciliation, then holiness…it is required of those who have been redeemed at such a cost and brought into this place of privilege, that they should be holy, even as He is holy.”

Tozer goes on to say: “There are serious, honest persons who have turned away from the whole idea of holiness because of those who have claimed it and then lived selfish and conceited lives.”

So holiness should be the natural response of gratitude toward the God who saved us. It also should be the evidence of a life that’s growing in grace, obeying the scriptures, and being conformed daily to the image of Christ. Additionally, holiness, aside from defining the privileges we’ve secured by the grace of God, is also a responsibility.

There is, in some corners, at this present time (and has been since the advent of the covenant of grace) a perverted understanding and expression of grace.

Separation from the “world” and “worldly” ideas and behaviors have for many Christians become relativistic notions, not biblical mandates. Scripture is crystal clear about life, eternity, sin, obedience, truth, and the list goes on and on. Quite frankly, there are no issues to which scripture does not speak. We are without excuse when it comes to understanding God’s opinion on the aforementioned issues and many more.

Grace was never meant to be used as some sort of excuse to rationalize questionable, ungodly, or unholy behavior. Grace is the means whereby ungodly, unholy sinners may be saved and empowered to be able to live the holy life that God clearly defines and mandates in scripture.

A holy life is a most powerful testimony, speaking more clearly than a host of words!

So, let’s break down, in a very simple way, the aspects of I Peter 1:13-16.

Gird your minds for action… As Michael Buffer used to announce before some of the greatest boxing matches; “Let’s get ready to rumble!” We’re in the battle of the ages. Let’s put on the whole armor of God and act like we mean business. Fight the good fight!

Keep sober in spirit… There is nothing more important than the issue of the eternal souls of men. God demonstrated the importance and priority of His saving grace through the substitutionary atoning death of His Son. We need to be serious about the things God is serious about. Live your faith, share your faith, and invest your faith in the truth of the gospel. Get serious!

Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ… As Christ is being revealed in you from “glory to glory” let His grace, by faith, be the substance and “evidence of things hoped for.” As the old hymn says: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Fix your hope!

As obedient children, do not be conformed to your former lusts which were yours in your ignorance… Sin is the ultimate stupidity. Sin leads to death. Obedience to God leads to life. Wise up!

But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior…” As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Think holy and you’ll live holy!

Because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” “For it is written” is God’s way of saying, “I’ve told you this before, I’m telling you again.” No, we can’t be holy in essence as He is holy. But, because of the cross, the truth of His Word, and His indwelling Holy Spirit, we can bear His image, evidence His presence, and manifest the fruit of the Spirit. All these things define and denote the holiness of God.

BE HOLY!

Now, to answer so many questions regarding Linda’s and my health.

As I write this letter (on May 10), Linda is struggling with a severe case of pneumonia. Just moments ago, she said she was feeling a little better, but she still has a way to go. Hopefully, by the time you read this, she’ll be doing much better. She continues on treatment every three weeks for the breast cancer she has now battled for thirty-six years. She does well, all things considered, but life moves at a slower and more careful pace. Yet, in the midst of these challenges, we proclaim joyfully: God is good, and we are blessed!

I’m doing well, now almost a year out from surgery for prostate cancer. I’m thankful we caught it early and all follow-up consults have been good news.

I had a Pacemaker installed in the middle of April. I thought those were for old guys! My heart has had some irregular heartbeats for many years, but in recent months it has gotten a little more pronounced. Anyway, I’m doing fine. (I just keep a set of jumper cables handy!)

We live in corruptible bodies, don’t we? Won’t Heaven be great?! No sickness, no pain, no death. Joy everlasting in perfect bodies in a perfect place!

Finally, we’re releasing the audiobook of Words of Hope and Comfort this month. There will be beautiful lyric music videos to accompany the seventeen chapters of the book. Even if you’ve already read the book, I think this Audio/Visual version will bring a whole new level of blessing and encouragement. I hope you’ve enjoyed what I’ve written, but I think you’ll enjoy me reading it to you even more. And then you’ll be able to also watch and listen to the beautiful lyric videos.

At this time I don’t know the exact release date but visit our website at www.dallasholm.com and it will be announced when available.

Thank you for your prayers, your friendship, and your support. We read the letters and emails that you send. We feel we know you as close friends, and we pray for you as well. “In our weaknesses His strength is perfected” (II Corinthians 12:8).

We’re still going strong!

Revival

In the last Praiseletter entitled Today, I mentioned that I may have more to say on that topic in this present letter. I think, in a sense, I shall, but perhaps not in the same way I had anticipated.

My wife and I recently went to see the movie, Jesus Revolution. The same day we went to see that movie, the news media (or at least some of the media) were continuing to carry a story about a revival that was occurring on the campus of Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Today, in this Praiseletter, we are going to attempt to get some clarity, perspective, and guidance concerning these kinds of events that have happened historically and are happening presently.

Even as I say that, it’s very possible that some of you are already choosing up sides (which always happens when these events occur) as to whether or not these revivals, awakenings, or so-called outpourings, are genuine, God-ordained, Spirit-empowered “happenings” or just emotionally charged and manipulated (by men) anomalies.

The best answer I can give is, I believe they can be both. This, of course, is where discernment comes in. But unfortunately, even discernment can be “muddied” by dogmatic opinions that have oftentimes been grounded in faulty doctrine, which inevitably leads to prejudiced or biased actions or reactions.

Our only hope of sorting these issues out is to go to God’s Word. So, first let’s consider the word revival in light of God’s revealed truth, as it relates to the aforementioned topics.

Revival definition: “restoration to life, consciousness, vigor, strength, an awakening, in a church or community, of interest in and care for matters relating to personal religion.”

I recently read a rather lengthy opinion piece by a highly regarded and well-respected theologian, dismissing any validity or credibility to the Asbury revival. In short, his opinion was that because revival is not a term found anywhere in the New Testament, we err in supposing that “these kinds of things” are to be anticipated or embraced today.

This line of thinking is rather like a particular denomination that allows no instruments to be used in the act of corporate worship in the church. Their reasoning is that nowhere in the New Testament are instruments mentioned, even though there are numerous mentions of varied instruments throughout the Old Testament.

There is music to be sure in this particular denomination, by way of acapella choirs, ensembles, and soloists. Beautiful music, I might add. The choirs and ensembles get their correct beginning note from a pitch pipe. A pitch pipe is akin to a harmonica but with fewer available notes. It is, by any definition, an instrument (though they’ll argue that) but that’s a topic for another time, not today. But you get the argument. If the word that defines the event is not mentioned, then the event itself cannot be credible or viable.

Many, it seems, who are the quickest to speak out against the possibility that God, in His sovereignty, might again do what scripture verifies He has done historically, say: “Such outpourings, awakenings, revivings, and the miraculous have all ended at the conclusion of the Apostolic Age.” Oh well, that settles it! But wait a minute…I’ve read my Bible from cover to cover many times and I don’t recall coming across the term “Apostolic Age” anywhere…not once!

Now relax, I believe the term Apostolic Age is most appropriate in defining that period of time from the Day of Pentecost (c. A.D. 30-33, Acts 2 to the death of John c. A.D. 100). There are some nuanced opinions on this, but I am comfortable with the previous definition. There are no more apostles! By the defined qualifications found in scripture, apostles were those who:

1) Were an eyewitness to the resurrected Christ.
2) Were directly called by Christ.
3) Demonstrated “Signs of a true apostle” (performed signs and wonders).

There are some who may have an apostolic-type ministry as it relates to “being sent out.” But, I do not believe there are apostles today who can meet the same criteria as those of the Apostolic Age. However, the point in all this is to be careful not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” as the saying goes.

Though the Apostolic Age has ended, we must be careful not to automatically suppose that all that the Holy Spirit was doing during that time has ended as well. The Holy Spirit is not still inspiring men to write words that are equal to or in addition to the Canon of Scripture. Of this we can be sure! However, I find it interesting that many who are so adamant about the sovereignty of God (I believe He is absolutely sovereign) are often among the first to say what He can or can’t, will or won’t, do anymore.

Has God ever revived? (Remember Nineveh?)
Has He ever poured out His Spirit? (Remember Pentecost and subsequent scriptural references.)
Has He ever awakened a church, a city, or a region? (Ask Johnathan Edwards and many others in both biblical and present times.)

If God has a history of reviving, pouring out His Spirit, and awakening people, all in accordance with the truth of His Word and the power of His Spirit, why couldn’t He or wouldn’t He do it now?

Many are quick to point out that all these revivals, awakenings, or outpourings are nothing more than emotionalism. There are (and unfortunately will continue to be) false revivals. There have been so-called “outpourings” that lacked little if any biblical precedent and should be avoided completely. However, any true move of God upon us by the truth of His Word and the power of His Spirit, will and should involve our emotions. That’s a good thing. A dear pastor friend of mine wrote recently: “Emotion. It’s an essential part of motivation. It’s also an essential part of spirituality. Without emotions spirituality is reduced to empty ritual and formality. It’s when the soul is stirred that authentic godliness becomes a reality.” (Dr. Richard Dressellhaus)

Let’s revisit the definition of Revival:

• Restoration to life (Rom. 6:10-11, Jeremiah 30:17)
• Consciousness (Acts 17:28, Isaiah 30:21)
• Vigor/strength (Philippians 4:13, Isaiah 40:31)

There are many, many other verses throughout Scripture that fit and support these defining words as well. It seems as though revival is a biblical concept. Revival also seems a most appropriate term to recount the lives and ministries of Zwingli, Luther, Calvin, and others of those centuries long ago. Wesley, Whitfield, Edwards, Finney, and Moody all gave testimony to the reviving, awakening, and transforming power of the preached Word of God, presented under the anointing of His Holy Spirit.

I think I would offer here a word of advice, and hopefully wisdom, on how we should consider the validity of some present-day revival or awakening. First of all, the Word must be the first and only means whereby we determine the authenticity of any revival, awakening, or movement. I don’t believe, however, that this means revival can begin only if the Word is preached. Some great revivals in history began because people sought God desperately in prayer. In the beginning process of people, churches, and communities, even nations being revived, there was by necessity, a need for the “revived” to be fed. A person being physically revived will soon and always need nourishment. No matter how a revival starts, it must soon and always be nourished by the preaching of the Word or it will become anemic and fade away, as many have.

On the other hand, Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon entitled, “Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God” to his congregation in Northampton, Massachusetts, and again on July 8, 1741, in Enfield, Connecticut, and what has come to be known as “The First Great Awakening” ensued.

When assessing revivals, awakenings, or movements, I think we would be wise to apply the wisdom of Gamaliel to the situation. When the high priest and his council wanted to punish some disciples, Gamaliel intervened and said: “Other movements have started and fizzled out. If this is not of God, it will fizzle also. However, if it is of God, you can’t stop it, and may even be found fighting against God.” (My paraphrase)

Good advice. Sound wisdom!

I mentioned earlier that Linda and I went to see the movie, Jesus Revolution. We enjoyed seeing a depiction of what was happening in those days, though I believe the movie got some things wrong. I have never really liked the term revolution to describe what God was doing amongst the Hippies and youth in the late 60s and early 70s. I prefer the term “Jesus Movement” because of the definition of revolution, as we know it. However, whether called a revolution, movement, or revival; I believe God was at work (even in the midst of much chaos, confusion, and counterfeit) targeting wayward, disillusioned youth, with the claims of the gospel. Linda and I lived in So. California in 1970 and 71, only a few miles from where so many new converts were being baptized in the Pacific Ocean. Most of my ministry at that time was with David Wilkerson. We ministered nightly in arenas, auditoriums, on the beaches in California, and across the country, preaching and singing the gospel, and always seeing many come to faith in Christ. Many didn’t.

Yes, there was craziness, bad theology in many corners, commercialism, and excess of various kinds. But what did you think…that Satan was going to stand on the sidelines and cheer? Whenever God moves, either on an individual or a culture, He’s never inactive, disinterested, or uninvolved. He’s always committed to mess things up!

But there are ministers in the pulpit today, missionaries around the world, and musicians still writing and singing the praises of God and the truth of the gospel because of the Jesus Movement. We still have many dear friends in Christian music, and elsewhere, who were brought from darkness to light and from sinners to saints during the Jesus Movement. Let’s be careful to never judge what God may be doing by any personal, biased, and prejudiced opinions.

When considering how God may be” moving” in an individual, a church, a community, or even a nation, let us always look to the “cover-to-cover” evidence in His Word, and believe in the present and unchanged power of His Holy Spirit. Let us pray that He would sovereignly move again in our churches, our cities, our country, and throughout the world. If ever there was a need for true spiritual revival, it’s now!

We praise Thee, Oh God
For the Son of Thy love
For Jesus Who died
And is now gone above

All glory and praise
To the Lamb that was slain
Who hath borne all our sins
And hath cleansed every stain

Revive us again
Fill each heart with Thy Love
May each soul be rekindled
With fire from above

Hallelujah Thine the glory
Hallelujah Amen
Hallelujah Thine the glory
Revive us again

(William P. Mackay 1835-1885)

Today

“Be untethered to the remembrance of past attainments. Once, they were the unknown future; now they are the unimportant past. “Today is the day of salvation.” Live in the opportunity of today and the hope of tomorrow’s potential.” (Holm)

The preceding quote was formulated on the second day of January 2021, as I embarked on a project to write some devotional thoughts each day of that year. By year’s end, there were 365 quotes, poems, song lyrics, and scripture verses, all culminating in a devotional book entitled, “Mile Markers Through the Desert.”

Yes, that’s a promo for the book (which you’ve probably already been made aware of). But, more importantly, I want us to examine what I believe is a profound and greatly beneficial truth contained in that simple January 2nd quote.

“Today is the day of salvation,” is a familiar portion of text from scripture (2 Corinthians 6:2). It really has a “two-edged sword” application. Salvation is both a one-time gift and also a gift that keeps on giving, if you will.

When we are saved (justified) we are saved from the penalty of sin. This is a past act, a once-for-all transaction. A person who has been saved has been justified, and conversely, a person who has been justified is one who has been saved.

Jesus’ substitutionary, atoning work on the cross, paid the penalty for our sin and when a person trusts in Him for salvation, that person is forgiven and justified before God.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

However, though justified, Christians still struggle with the power of sin in their lives. We have been completely saved and thus, completely forgiven but we continue to struggle, as did Paul, with the war that rages between our flesh and our spirit. (Read Romans 7)

Salvation has set us apart unto God and at the same time continues to keep us set apart unto Him. It is both an act and a process. Oswald Chambers puts it this way: “We work out that which He has worked in.” Scripture agrees with this premise: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

This is not a verse suggesting that salvation is by works (as some suggest). The context of the verse is about humility, obedience, and submission to the lordship of Christ. It does, however, in the very nature of its wording; “work out”, suggest an ongoing cooperative effort, if you will, of having been saved but also being saved daily. You may say, “I think you’re speaking more of sanctification, not salvation.”

I think perhaps we have made too broad a distinction between salvation and sanctification. Salvation is a gift, to be sure, given at a precise moment in time, but inherent in that gift is the setting apart unto God through His sanctifying power.

I believe that the very God who can save us is also willing and able to keep us. However, growth in grace, maturity in Christ, and being conformed to His image have much to do with our perseverance, our obedience, and our effort and desire to work out (“with fear and trembling”) that which He has worked in.

I know there are differing opinions on this doctrinal area, but I offer here my best understanding of what scripture teaches on this.

It really was not my intention to spend so much time and type on this area as it was to explore and challenge us in our understanding of living for Jesus “today”.

My mom had a little plaque that read as follows:

“I have no yesterdays, time took them away. I may not have tomorrow, but I have today.” Toward the end of my mom’s life, spending her days in a nursing facility and with dementia winning a slow battle for her memory, she would quote that poem, repeatedly, not remembering she had just quoted it minutes before.

Her delivery of the poem was often presented with a note of sadness and resignation. I understand then as I do now, that her natural inclination amidst her circumstances and foggy memory was to highlight the yesterdays and tomorrow. However, the real meat and punch of the poem are affirmative, “But I have today!”

We’re probably familiar with a term that speaks of “being in the moment.” Some athlete who just performed some incredible feat, some actor who delivered the “performance of a lifetime,” or perhaps some student who suddenly had a major “breakthrough” in an area of academic pursuit might say, “I was just in the moment!”

I used to not be quite sure what was meant by that, but I suspect it has something to do with blocking out all distractions, past and future, focusing intently on the “right now,” and achieving the full purpose and potential of the moment at hand. This may sound like some sort of New Age Zen practice, but actually, it’s straight from scripture, whether “they” know it or not.

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2).

Every yesterday is under the sovereign lordship of our eternal God. As Christians, our sins are cleansed by the blood of Jesus, cast away as far as the East is from the West, to be remembered against us no more.

We remember our failures and regrets, but grace transforms even those to become steps upon which we trod to “higher ground.”

So, what of tomorrow? Jesus asks a penetrating question and gives a most succinct response to both the crowd gathered at the famous “sermon on the mount” and to us today.

Q: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span” (Matthew 6:27)?

A: “Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself ” (Matthew 6:34).

We cannot change our yesterdays. We have no guarantee of tomorrow, though I do believe we can have a hope for tomorrow’s potential, should God graciously grant us another day.

It’s kind of like my little Norwegian grandmother used to say: “Plan like you’re going to live forever but live like you’re going to die tomorrow.” (She had a million of em!)

I’m challenging myself this year to put away the past and all its nagging reminders. I’m committing to not project into tomorrow’s frightening world of “what ifs.” I invite you to join me in this challenge, this discipline, and this freeing exercise.

I think, perhaps, there will be more on this in the next Praiseletter, but as for now, that’s all for TODAY.

Intercessor/Advocate (Part 2)

“My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins” (I John 2:1-2).

In the last Praiseletter, we looked at Christ as our intercessor. We considered the security we have in Christ because “He ever lives to make intercession for us.”

Not only are we assured of our standing in Christ because of His continual intercession on our behalf, but we possess a great hope in knowing that even when we’re not praying, He is. When we say our “amens,” He continues on, ever and always interceding for us.

So, one might ask, “What then is the difference between Intercessor and Advocate?”

I’m glad you asked.

In his book, Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund writes as follows: “When we talk about Christ’s intercession, we are talking about what Jesus is doing now, and the present manifestation of His heart for His people. In general terms, it means that a third party comes between two others and makes a case to one on behalf of the other. Intercession applies what the atonement accomplished.”

All that was needed to accomplish God’s plan of salvation was realized and completed at the cross. However, as we continue through life on this fallen planet, and in these corruptible bodies, we need help, daily, for each step of the journey. Thus, He intercedes on our behalf.

Let’s now look at Christ’s ministry as Advocate. Again, Ortlund writes: “Intercession has the idea of mediating between two parties, bringing them together. Advocacy is similar but has the idea of aligning oneself with another. An intercessor stands between two parties; an advocate doesn’t simply stand in between the two parties but steps over and joins the one party as he approaches the other. Jesus is not only an intercessor but an advocate.”

The Greek word (parakletos) is difficult to define by one English word. Some translations use Helper, Counselor, Comforter, and even Companion, but Advocate perhaps best describes the unique aspect of one aligning with another to represent them, in a legal sense.

Ortlund gives further clarity when he writes: “Intercession is something Christ is always doing, while advocacy is something He does as occasion calls for it.”

John Bunyon wrote: “Christ, as Priest, goes before, and Christ, as an Advocate, comes after. Christ, as Priest, continually intercedes; Christ, as Advocate, in case of great transgressions, pleads. Christ, as Priest, has need to act always, but Christ, as Advocate, sometimes only.”

Let us remember always that Satan is, “the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). Scripture also tells us, “He is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Here’s an interesting question: does Satan still come into the presence of God, as he did in regard to Job, and bring accusations against God’s elect? Or is he going to show up in a kind of heavenly “court of appeals” and make his accusations, in some last-ditch attempt to convince God, that perhaps His elect weren’t as secure as they thought?

Here’s where the word propitiation “wins the day,” as recorded in I John 2:1-2. This word assures us that God’s wrath towards sin was fully satisfied through the substitutionary, atoning work of Christ’s blood, shed on the cross. So, whether Satan still comes before God, as with Job, and accuses us from time to time, or whether he’s saving up for some final “courtroom showdown,” or both – as Erwin Lutzer writes in his powerful book, The Serpent of Paradise: “When Satan accuses us, we must show him our canceled certificate and read aloud, Paid in full. We must say to him, Begone! For it is written, ‘Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us’” (Romans 8:33-34). Our attorney (advocate), Christ, has pleaded our case, and God has accepted His plea. And when God speaks, the universe listens!”

There’s much more that could be said about Christ, as both Intercessor and Advocate, but I hope these letters have served to point out some distinctions and, in the process, given some clarity as to Christ’s ever-present and ongoing ministry in our lives. We, who are saved, have a confident and secure standing in Christ because He is always and ever, to us, both Intercessor and Advocate.

Now, I would like to take just a moment, on behalf of Linda and myself to wish you a most Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Amidst life’s challenges and surprises, may you know, “The peace that passes understanding.” Even in sorrow. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in Hope.” You remain in our prayers.

Coming Soon In Print – Mile Markers through the Desert.
An inspiring book of 365 daily devotions to offer guidance and wisdom for life’s journey.