I don’t know about you, but I like simple. Give it to me as simple as possible! I shave with Occam’s razor, if you catch my drift.
Man’s ways are complicated and powerless.
Jesus’s ways are simple and powerful:
Know a tree by its fruit;
Treat folks like you’d want;
Love God, then your neighbor.
Plain. Simple. Brilliant.
That’s why I love the following verse:
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. – 1 John 5:12 (John 3:18, 36)
Doesn’t get more simple than that: Jesus = life.No Jesus = death.
There is no third choice. There is no riding the fence. There is no middle ground.
Either you gather or scatter. Either you are for or against (Matt. 12:30). Either you are alive or dead.
He won’t force you to love Him. It ain’t no shotgun wedding. It’s your choice. What’s it gonna be?
I constantly say the wrong thing. I consistently am weak when I ought to be strong. I have no power to speak of. However, I take great comfort and confidence in the common denominator of the following 2 verses:
(My wife would be so proud of that Math term!)
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts – Zech. 4:6
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, – 1 Cor. 2:4
It’s God’s gift of the Holy Spirit that empowers us. Anything we do that is even moderately successful is just a small demonstration of this power. When I mess up (which is often), it is because I am relying on my own strength and power (which we already established is dreadfully deficient). Relying on the Lord and the Holy Spirit dramatically increases the successful outcome of any situation.
If you are facing a crisis and feel overwhelmed, take comfort in the knowledge that a child of God can rely on the power that Zechariah and Paul relied on. It wasn’t their own, I can tell you that much. It was the power of the Spirit!
Not a child of God? He’s just waiting to adopt you! He’s got the paperwork ready. He’s got the car outside running. Sprint out of that orphanage into the mansion! You can take that one all the way to the bank.
Do me a favor and chew on this “solid food” (1 Cor. 3:2):
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. -Rom. 8:11
We sort of gloss over that verse, but it’s implications are crazy amazing: resurrection power resides in us! Is there anything more incredible? The power to raise the dead? Dwelling in our bones? Come on, now!
Imagine if we really believed that.
Charlotte’s prayers are so sweet. I wish everyone could hear them. She prays that we would all know how much Jesus loves us, that we would love ourselves as Jesus loves us, and of course, she prays for Mary who is always getting into trouble. I want my prayers to be more like hers. They naturally overflow with hesed.
Hesed is, by far, my favorite Hebrew word. My guess is it will soon be yours as well.
Hesed means steadfast love, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, or mercy.  The late R.C. Sproul described it as loyal love. I like that. It’s sorta like our word for love. Not only in meaning, but also in the sense that we use it to mean a lot of different things. In fact, we probably over-use it: We say we love our spouse, our kids, & our coffee.
Hesed occurs 245 times in the OT (1st in Gen. 19:19, last in Zech. 7:9  ). Arguably, the NT equivalent would be the Greek word charis or GRACE (favor, kindness). 
Hesed has a vertical component; God gives hesed to us.
Hesed has also a horizontal component; we give hesed to each other.
Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love [hesed] of the LORD. – Psa.107:43, (ESV)
OK, so most people do not like to read the OT. Its hard to understand and doesn’t seem relevant. We get hung up on all the begats, don’t we? Well, if that’s the case: I am giving you permission to skip over the begats. But I think its more than that. We also think the OT paints a picture of God that we don’t really like: full of wrath! This is a real shame. Because that’s not how God describes Himself:
The Lord passed before him, & proclaimed ‘Yahweh, the Lord, a God merciful & gracious, slow to anger, & abounding in steadfast love & faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the 1,000th generation, forgiving iniquity & transgression & sin.’ – Exd. 34:6-7
Not just love. Not just steadfast love. But – ABOUNDINGin steadfast love! KEEPINGsteadfast love! Yahweh repeatedly describes Himself as being full of hesed. Oh, don’t think I am watering it down for you: God is holy, holy, holy (Isa. 6:3) and sin must be recompensed (Rom. 6:23). But, God is also abounding in hesed.
Jesus, of course, perfectly embodies hesed in the NT:
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. – Acts 10:38
Over & over again, the Bible tells us Jesus went around helping & healing (Matt. 4:23, 9:35). This is hesed in action!This is how we imitate Christ; by helping & healing. To be Christlike is to be devoted to each other in brotherly hesed (Rom. 12:10).
Ultimately, Jesus showed supreme hesed by laying down His life for ours (1 John 3:16). This is how we know what love is: sacrificial hesed. When you think of God, think of hesed. When you think of Jesus, think of hesed. And when you think of your fellow man, think of hesed. Just like Charlotte’s prayers, our lives ought to naturally overflow with lovingkindness and steadfast love.
Now, you can see why hesed is my favorite Hebrew word. Is it yours?
We are all looking for something, aren’t we? What is it that you looking for? Wisdom (experience, career)? Knowledge (facts, degrees)? Happiness (marriage, relationships)? Peace (also marriage and relationships… just kidding)? Riches (security, comfort)? Whatever it is, ALL is found in Jesus.
All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him – Col. 2:3
If you are looking anywhere else, then you are barking up the wrong tree. You know, that is a pretty funny expression now that I am actually thinking about it; the dog has chased a cat up a tree and is now barking at it, but the cat is in another tree? Silly dog. However, that is what I want you to envision if you are looking for…. lets say, self-fulfillment, in any other place than in Jesus. Yep, you are that silly dog barking up the wrong the tree. Come on, dog! Ya got the wrong tree!
If I were looking for something in the wrong place, I would want someone to tell me. Constantly searching sounds too exhausting. I would much rather rest. Its like looking for the car keys in the refrigerator. They probably aren’t there. If I were rummaging through the freezer looking for my keys and you knew where they were – I would want you to tell me.
If you are not looking to Jesus, then you are looking in the freezer for your car keys.
ALL treasures are found in Him. Satisfaction for your heart? In Him. Satisfaction for your mind? In Him. Satisfaction for your bones? ALL are found in Him. I promise you: Jesus doesn’t come up short. Jesus doesn’t disappoint. Jesus doesn’t leave you holding the check. Jesus doesn’t promise, and then not deliver. In fact, He over-delivers. He exceeds. He excels.
Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], – Eph. 3:20a (AMP)
Anything worth knowing, is known in Him. Anything worth finding, is found in Him. Anything worth discovering is discovered in Him. Think about that: All the secret riches that can potentially come out of all intelligence and understanding is revealed in Christ! That’s why Paul calls it treasure. Treasure is priceless, precious, and rare. The closest to finding treasure I ever got was using a metal detector at the beach one summer. Man, you never saw a kid more excited over a quarter. You would have thought I found the Heart of the Ocean or something. Jesus is talking about FOR REAL treasure. Not some rusty old quarter! Life treasure. Soul treasure. Eternal Treasure. True fortune.
Treasures are hidden, aren’t they? They are buried. They require some digging. They must be unearthed. You have to remove the dirt to find the treasure. We have a lot of dirt piled up in our lives. We are buried in it! Jesus can remove the dirt – if you will let Him. He wants to unearth the potential underneath all the guck and grime.
The most worthwhile treasure you can ever possess is knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. It may take some digging, but it is well worth it.
Peppered throughout the Book of the Twelve (or as we call them, the Minor Prophets… “minor” in length not in importance!), there resides a curious verse: “Be silent before the Lord” (Hab. 2:20; Zeph. 1:7; Zech. 2:13).
Don’t we love to fantasize about all the things WE will ask the Lord when we get to Heaven? We envision long discussions and all the things WE will say in the presence of the Lord. In eternity I’m sure there will be time for that sort of thing, however, it seems the opposite will also be true. Not only will there be endless praise, adoration, and worship of the Father (Psa. 145:21) – but it appears we will also be in silent, reverent service (Rev. 22:3).
Picture this: we will be hanging on every word that drops from the Father. We will be on the edge of our seat unwilling to miss even a singly syllable. With bated breath, we will soak up every last letter. We will be totally and lovingly captivated by Jehovah. We will be silent, because we won’t want to miss anything!
Could it also be because if we open our mouths, inevitably, the subject matter will be ourselves? Or bad advice? Job’s friends were silent for a week before giving their counsel… and what rotten counsel it was!
I love Solomon’s Proverb to let your words be few (Ecc. 5:2). And also, even a fool seems wise if he doesn’t open his mouth and prove otherwise (Prov. 17:28). Silence is, indeed, golden. Silence (usually) means we are listening. Hey, it may be the reason we were given two ears and just one mouth.
I saw the movie Looking For Richard in 1996 and I have never forgotten the wise words of a homeless man when he said, “maybe if we meant what we said, we would say less and mean more.”
When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth both were unexpectedly and miraculously pregnant (Mary as a virgin and Elizabeth because… she was old. Forgive me Elizabeth, but that’s what the Good Book says). When they greet each other for the first time, something extraordinary happens: John leaps for joy… in the womb! And not only that; Elizabeth is immediately “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:41)
Now, this raises 2 interesting points:
1. Luke (a doctor, mind you) considered the fetus to be a “babe.” We know this because he used the same Greek word (“brephos“) in 2:12, 16 – “You will find a baby lying in a manger.” [More on this subject Sunday Dec. 17th!]
2. John’s JOY triggered Elizabeth’s filling of the Holy Spirit. Let that sink in. John (who was given a full dose of the Holy Spirit in the womb, Luke 1:15) “leaped for joy” and THEN Elizabeth was filled.
Could it be that joy sparks the Holy Spirit? Does it help activate Him? Is joy a catalyst? Could it be that those who have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can help ignite others by being joyful? It would appear so. After all, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is it not (Gal. 5:22-23)?
In this manner, joy can be like jumper cables infusing a dead car battery with life and energy! It does so by sharing that life and energy. We do likewise by sharing the joy that the Holy Spirit gives us to those who are dead (spiritually-speaking)!
Let us then be joyful. Who knows who we may vicariously jump-start in the process?
Throughout Mark there is a sweet phrase that jumps off the page and touches my heart; Jesus taking people “by the hand.”
Again and again, the Savior took people “aside privately” hand in hand. Just He and them, secluded and close – then He would heal them.
There is something so tender about this; something so intimate and dear. Jesus could have healed in any way He desired; from across the way, by thought, or by will. However, He purposely held their hand.
I am, as I always am, reminded of my girls: I cherish taking them by their tiny hands. When they comply (which they don’t always!) and allow me to lead them by the hand, it fills my heart with such indescribable joy.
Jesus longs to take you by the hand and He adores when you ask for His. Won’t you reach out for it?
Please take a minute to educate yourself on how Islam treats women.*
Using specific verses from the Qur’an:
• Sura 4:34 – Men can beat their wife.
• Sura 3:4 – Men can marry up to 4 wives… except Muhammad, he can marry as many as he likes (Sura 3:50). He married 12 by the way – one of whom was 6 years old when married and 9 years old when consummated (he was 53).
• Sura: 4:11 – Men get twice as much as women in inheritance
• Sura 4:31 – Women must “lower their gaze” as to not look directly at men.
• Sura 3:14 – Women are “a thing” akin to property.
• Sura 2:223 – Women are “a field to be plowed.”
• Hadith Bukhar 1:6:301 (a secondary source to the Qur’an)- Hell is filled 2/3 with women.
• Sura 19:27 – Muhammad thought that Mary was the “sister of Aaron” (mistaking her for Miriam… close; only off by 1,500 years or so)
Compare this with ANY teaching from Jesus about women:
Long distance relationships stink. Anyone who’s ever gone through one will tell you: They are hard and most of them don’t work. Hey, relationships are tough no matter what. Add distance to the equation, and you are almost doomed.
You wouldn’t make a relationship with someone you loved long distance on purpose, would you? Why make a relationship harder if it doesn’t have to be? You want the person you love as close as possible. If it was in your power to close that gap, you would. Right?
Jesus wants a close, SHORT DISTANCE relationship with you. He wants to be the first person you turn to in need. He wants to be there to comfort and guide you. He doesn’t want to be a world away. He doesn’t want to be the fourth or fifth or sixth person you go to. He knows what’s best for you, He knows God’s plan for you, and He wants nothing more than for you to succeed… so He can spend even more time with you.
It is you and I that create the distance. I say, “create,” because, it isn’t there until we put it there. We disconnect. We disengage. We cut the lines of communication. Jesus is always there. Always waiting. Always hoping. He is there waiting and hoping that we reach out to Him.
Skype is cool. Facetime is really neat. But there’s nothing quite like spending time with someone in person.
Take out your daily planner and set aside 10 mins every morning. 10 mins to just catch up with the Lord. Now, once it’s on the schedule, it’s on the schedule. There’s something about actually writing it down that makes it… more official. Know what I mean? You can’t break it… unless, of course, something more important than Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God comes up… then, by all means, take it instead. (Thanks to my Pastor, Dr. Rev. David Cyphers for this practical application.)
Long distance relationships stink. Jesus doesn’t want that. James 4:8 says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” It’s in your power to close the gap. All it takes is that first step.