Upward, Inward, Outward, Forward: Cooperate

Upward, Inward, Outward, Forward: Cooperate

A Team Effort

W hat feelings come when you think about evangelism? Fear? Anxiety? Intimidation? When someone mentions sharing your faith, do you feel unbearable pressure, as though your actions will make the difference in a person’s eternal destiny? If this is how you feel, you’re in good company.

Especially in today’s “tolerant” atmosphere that doesn’t tolerate talking about anything that might offend someone, it truly is intimidating when you think about the former paradigm of evangelism. So if you feel burdened when the opportunity to share your faith comes, look to Paul. His perspective

1st Corinthians 3:6 says: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.”

was completely different. He didn’t find evangelism burdensome, because he didn’t see the outcome as his responsibility. Sharing the joy of knowing Jesus was what he loved more than anything to do. Here’s why.

Paul recognized that sharing the faith is a team effort. He never felt like the Lone Ranger, solely responsible for reaching everyone with the Gospel. He didn’t work alone but partnered with others who knew and loved Jesus as well.

He knew that God was responsible for saving people, not him. He freely and joyfully told others about his Savior as he partnered with God as He drew people to Himself.

“Or do you have no regard for the wealth of His kindness and tolerance and patience [in withholding His wrath]? Are you [actually] unaware or ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness leads you to repentance [that is, to change your inner self, your old way of thinking—seek His purpose for your life]?  Romans 2:4 (AMP).”

When my husband and I were missionaries in Russia, we would see churches send over short-term missionaries with an agenda. They thought they had to make a set number of conversions in order to be “successful.” It filled us with sadness because after “saving” a bunch of orphans at summer camp, they would go home full of themselves and promptly forget the children with whom they had “shared their faith.” This pressure to evangelize was rooted in pride, as evidenced by their emphasis on numbers. (It actually had the completely opposite effect, as, after a while, the kids who had been “saved” at numerous camps and then spiritually abandoned didn’t see the benefit of saying the “magic words” that would change their lives.)

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you]. And He, when He comes, will convict the world about [the guilt of] sin [and the need for a Savior], and about righteousness, and about judgment: John 16:7-8 (MP)”

Though some Christians do the work of an evangelist out of pride, revelling more in the fact that they led someone to Christ than the fact that the person is now saved, others have different motivations. Some feel pressure to live up to an ideal that they have created in their minds based upon conference speakers or authors who speak about evangelism. Still, the focus is on themselves. They do not see themselves as part of a team that includes the Holy Spirit, to whom all credit is due.

The kind of evangelism that draws people to God is the kind that develops deep and longstanding relationships. That’s exactly how God draws people to Himself, and when we team up with God, people desire more of that kind of relationship.

What are your feelings about sharing your faith? Pray for God to give you the freedom to work as a team member with the Holy Spirit and with others.

Would You Like To Know How To Become A Christian?

Just Click Here

Ezrah—An “Help Meet” for Adam

Ezrah—An “Help Meet” for Adam

Word of the Week

Ezrah

Hebrew

Let’s take a look at an often mistranslated word. Ezrah looks like this:

עֶזתָה

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” Genesis 2:18

Understanding the meaning of Hebrew words is essential to our complete understanding of the Scriptures.

The trouble with reading the Scriptures without knowing how the original writers thought is that the interpretation can leave out much that is essential to understanding the Word of God. Such is the case when we read Genesis 2:18, where “an help meet” makes it sound as though Eve were an assistant, someone sent to “help” Adam, but in a second-in-command role. Nothing could be further from the truth.

וְיֹאמַר ה אֱלֹהִים, לֹא טוֹב שֶׁהָאָדָםצָרִיךְ לִהְיוֹת לְבַדּוֹ אֲנִי אֶעֱשֶׂה לוֹ עֶזְרָה שֶׁתִּפְגֹּשׁ אוֹתוֹ.

v’yomar Adonai elohiym, lo tov sheha’adam tzariykh’ lih’yot l’vado aniy e’eshoeh lo ezrah shetif’gosh oto.

With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles.” 2nd Chronicles 32:8

עִמֹּו זְרֹועַ בָּשָׂר וְעִמָּנוּ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ לְעָזְרֵנוּ וּלְהִלָּחֵם מִלְחֲמֹתֵנוּ

Imo zro’a bashar v’imanu Adonai eloheinu l’azerenu uv’lehillachem milchamotenu.

“Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:20

נַפְשֵׁנוּ חִכְּתָה לַֽיהוָה עֶזְרֵנוּ וּמָגִנֵּנוּ הֽוּא׃

Naf’shenu, chib’tah laihvah ezrenu uv’maginnenu hu.

I’m sure you would agree that the God who fights our battles is not in a second-in-command role nor an assistant to our own strength and might. Indeed, we know that if victory in the battles we face were up to us alone, we would surely lose (the idiom “crash and burn” comes to mind).

So what was God talking about when He said that He would make “an help meet” for Adam? The Hebrew word ezer is actually a combination of two roots words: one means “to rescue, to save.” The other meaning is “to be strong.” The first root is י – שׁ – ע, which is where we get the name Yeshua. The other root is ח – ז – ק, meaning “to be strong, to make strong, to strengthen.” Together, they embody the essence of the word “savior.” In fact, in eight out of the 22 times ezer appears in the Bible, it is translated “savior.” The rest of the time, it refers to how God strengthens man.

1 Samuel 7:12 says: “Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”

The Hebrew word eben means rock. When ezer is attached, it means “rock of salvation.” So Eve was not just to “help” Adam, she was “to save” him. That paints an entirely different picture of how Eve was to help Adam. 

The word translated “meet” is kind of tricky. Most people think that God was saying that among the beasts, there was none “worthy” of Adam, so He made Eve “worthy” of being a companion to him.  In Hebrew, the word kenegdo only appears one time. It is related to the word neged,  which means “against.” But it can also mean “in front of” or “opposite of.” The best translation, though, means “exactly corresponding to.”  Eve was Adam’s mirror opposite, half of a whole, completing him. What Adam lacked in qualities, responsibilities, and attributes, Eve supplied.

Not only did it require both of their sexual organs created in opposition to fit perfectly together to bring life, but it also meant that they were to “co-steward” the earth and all that was in it. She was his complete spiritual equal and had an essential saving power opposite his but equally as important.

So how does woman save man?

Most obviously, she gives him life and guides him toward the light of the world. Women are a gateway into the mortal world for children and without this saving power, there would be no opportunity for progress toward God. When a baby is born, he or she is ushered into a place of unconditional love. The first thing a baby receives is an explanation of how God loves His creation. The woman is a perfect picture of willingness to give one’s own life for the sake of one you love.

Many people will look at Eve in the garden and say that she brought death to the world. God sees it differently. It was through a woman that the Savior would be born, and without her ability to bear the infant Jesus, mankind would be hopelessly lost forever. Thus, Adam’s “helper” literally saved him from eternal spiritual death.

Perhaps a better understanding of Genesis 2:18 would be:

“It is not good that man should be alone (incomplete): I will make him a strong companion who will have the power to save him and will be his spiritual equal, completing him.”

Now that’s a powerful idea!

Would You Like To Know How To Become A Christian?

Just Click Here

Upward, Inward, Outward, Forward: Serve

Upward, Inward, Outward, Forward: Serve

Believer as Servant

W hen Jesus came, it wasn’t as a political ruler who told people what to do. Instead, He humbled Himself and because a servant to all to demonstrate how God had designed people to live. He left all His rights and privileges behind and served those who did not deserve Him. Although He knew that His own would abandon Him, He washed their feet. And then, He allowed his broken, ruined body to die so that those who were so unworthy would have a path to relationship with God.

He was the servant who ate with compromisers and rebels. His companions were uneducated and considered low-class by the religious rulers. He allowed His disciples to eat and drink when the Pharisees thought they should be fasting.

His friends were sinners.

How could the opinion of the self-righteous matter? He had already given up His throne in Heaven. There was nothing they could take from Him, not even His life. He reminded His disciples that no one took His life from Him, that He laid it down by His own volition.

Eating with sinners showed that He valued them highly, as it was the custom to only dine with those of high value.

He didn’t require anything in order to serve; He simply served. He poured Himself out for the people He came to save: the lost, the destitute, the sick and the disreputable.

Levi (Matthew) gave a great banquet for Him at his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others who were reclining at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes [seeing those with whom He was associating] began murmuring in discontent to His disciples, asking, “Why are you eating and drinking with the tax collectors and sinners [including non-observant Jews]?”  And Jesus replied to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but [only] those who are sick. I did not come to call the [self-proclaimed] righteous [who see no need to repent], but sinners to repentance [to change their old way of thinking, to turn from sin and to seek God and His righteousness].” Luke 5:29-32 (AMP)

An old hymn perfectly sums up what His requirements for association with Him were:

Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee
O Lamb of God, I come! I come

He modeled the Great Commission even before He gave it to His followers. He showed them that He loved the unlovable and that while they were still in sin, He gave His life on their behalf.  So what should our response be?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

If you embrace the call of Jesus, then you love your unsaved friends, neighbors, and family members even while they are in sin. You go to them (go into all the world) and don’t present a barricade of your requirements for behavior or belief before you befriend them.

That’s what Jesus did. He demonstrated His love, knowing that His love was all that was necessary for them to believe.

Can unbelievers call you their friend?

How can you serve and share with your unbelieving friends and family in a way that allows Jesus’ light to shine? You should become a one-way-sign pointing straight up by your love.

This week, pray for godly interaction with the lost, whatever their station in life. And petition your Father to have His heart, His eyes, and His hands as you go.

Would You Like To Know How To Become A Christian?

Just Click Here

Hebrew Word of the Week: Shema

Hebrew Word of the Week: Shema

Word of the Week

Shema

Hebrew

Today’s Hebrew contains one of the most sacred words in the language:

שָׁמַע

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord is thy God, the Lord alone.” Deuteronomy 6:4

In the ancient book of Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people to understand this concept. He commands them to listen, but not listen alone.

Shama means listen, take heed, and obey. It is the imperative form of the verb listen, and could be rendered in English thus: HEAR! LISTEN AND OBEY! See all the exclamation marks? It is an emphatic verb that goes much deeper than simply listening or hearing.

“In other words, in Hebrew, “hearing” and “doing” are basically the same thing, but what is Israel to do in response to hearing that the Lord alone is their God?” – The Bible Project

Moses goes on to tell the Israelites exactly how they are to obey the commandment to hear. The very next verse explains what they should do.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and with all your soul and with all your strength [your entire being].” – Deuteronomy 6:5

Translating Deuteronomy 6:4 is a bit difficult, because Hebrew has no word for “is” in the present tense. Due to the grammatical usage of putting nouns next to each other to express the present tense of “to be,” It could be translated one of 4 different ways.

  1. The Lord our God is one Lord.
  2. The Lord is our God, the Lord is one.
  3. The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
  4. The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.

So in whatever translation we use, the verse proclaims that God is God alone, and there is no other. (We’ll talk about the Trinity in the prayer in another post.)

Though Deuteronomy 6:4 may be a bit ambiguous, Deuteronomy 6:5 is as clear as day. God is to receive our love in all our capacity to love. We are to love Him with all of our being, holding nothing aside, and preferring Him above all else. Our total devotion and obedience is to God and God alone. (I’ve highlighted the word is in the previous sentences so that you can see how common it is in English.)

Jesus answered, “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Listen, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31

The threat of polytheism

As Moses prepared to die and turn leadership over to Joshua, he was probably very concerned that once the people crossed the Jordan, they would be surrounded by many “gods.” In fact, they were already surrounded by pagan deities. He also knew that he had had a difficult time keeping the people on the right path and was worried that they would quickly abandon God’s commandments after he was gone. So he taught them a prayer that would remind them that they were the chosen people and as such had loyalty to and devotion for one God, the true and only God.

“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be [written] on your heart and mind. You shall teach them diligently to your children [impressing God’s precepts on their minds and penetrating their hearts with His truths] and shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand (forearm), and they shall be used as bands (frontals, frontlets) on your forehead.” – Deuteronomy 6:6-8

Followers of God were to be marked by obedience and love. All paganism was to be strictly avoided because it would cause His people to be separated from Him. In the New Covenant, followers would see God face to face and will know as they are known. This is only possible when one’s whole being is focused on our God, and on Him alone.

“There will no longer exist anything that is cursed [because sin and illness and death are gone]; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve and worship Him [with great awe and joy and loving devotion]; they will [be privileged to] see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.” – Revelation 22:3-4 (AMP)

Would You Like To Know How To Become A Christian?

Just Click Here

How to Know God

How to Know God

Are you certain you know God?

Belief and faith are extremely important in our life in God, but perhaps there is a deeper understanding to be had in order to know Him.

What does it mean “to know” the Lord?

Belief

that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. – John 3:15

 

Faith

But without faith it is impossible to please Him. – Hebrews 11:6a

 

Knowledge

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; – Deuteronomy 7:9a

What does it mean to believe?

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. – John 3:18

The Greek word used in this verse is πιστεύω, pronounced pisteuō. It is defined this way: to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in

Its Hebrew counterpart is אָמַן, which is where the word amen comes from. It means:to stand firm, to trust, to be certain, to believe in.

So our first step is to believe. We recognize that there is Someone who is behind all that is. We understand that this visible world is not all there is. It is the “aha!” moment when our perspective changes and we move from unbelief into believe.

However, this is only the first step. Remember, even the demons believe!  James 2:19 uses the exact same word for believe, pisteuō.

We cannot stay here. This believe drives us forward into the next step, faith.

We move from mere belief to faith.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1

The Greek word used in this verse isπίστις, pronounced pē’-stēsIt is defined this way:a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we

obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God

Its Hebrew counterpart is אֱמוּנָה, which means:literally firmness; figuratively security; morally fidelity.

Having believed that there is God in heaven, we begin to wrestle with what that means. As we seek God’s face, He promises that He will be found (Jeremiah 29:13). When He is found, we see that we are hopelessly lost from Him, but our hearts yearn toward Him, longing to be in relationship with Him.

That’s why Jesus came. Why He died. Why we can now live. We pledge our fidelity to Him and become children of God (John 1:12).

Like our own children, we must learn to know.

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. – John 17:3

The Greek word used in this verse is γινώσκω, pronounced ginōskōIt is defined this way:to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel. As a Jewish idiom, to know is to have sexual intercourse.

Its Hebrew counterpart is יָדַע,  which means: to perceive and see, find out and discern, be revealed, to join together.

Like children, we progressively come to know God through the work of His Holy Spirit, whom He sent.

We start by acquiring knowledge, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In the Bible, knowing always involves relationship and commitment. It is a “joining together” of two to become one. You see a temporal illustration in marriage, where physical intimacy is described as “knowing” (Genesis 4:1). But it is so much more than that! It implies taking something (or someone) to oneself to possess it.

Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:5 wanted to “know” good and evil. Knowledge in itself is not bad, but in the biblical sense, it means to become one with it. What we take unto ourselves becomes a part of who we are, and separation requires as it were a “ripping apart,” a “tearing asunder” (Mark 10:9). This is one reason that God forbids sex before marriage. A bond is formed that renders real, permanent harm to both parties when the relationship is broken.

In Amos chapter 3 God declares “you only have I known.” Naturally, He knows every person on earth, not just one family, but He had created a relationship between Himself and Israel. It was a deep, physicla, mental, emotional, and spiritual knowing that set Israel apart as God’s own.

So returning to John 17:3, do we know God in the biblical sense? Have we joined together with Him and have we created a relationship that will last through eternity with Him?

What God has joined together… God does the joining in our relationship with Him. We become His own.

Do you truly know God… in the biblical sense?

Would You Like To Know How To Become A Christian?

Just Click Here