The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to decay and death into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:21
Our online dictionary includes this definition for the word “Hebrew”:
ORIGIN: from Old French Ebreu, via Latin from late Greek Hebraios, from Aramaic ‛i b ray, based on Hebrew ‛i b rî — understood to mean ‘one from the other side (of the river).’
Abraham’s descendants’ escaping from Egypt and, with divine Providence, rushing across the “parted” Red Sea certainly do come to mind. Hebrew = one from the other side — or, as this is sometimes expressed, “one who crossed over.” The Red Sea is a long, narrow, land-locked sea; in some ways it is more like a river. Further, Joshua would much later lead the Israelis into the Land by crossing the Jordan River near Jericho.
When we visited Israel a couple of years back, we learned that “Bethlehem” means in Hebrew “house of bread.” He who has been referred to as “Panis Angelicus,” Bread of Angels, the ultimate “manna,” the one who illustrated His “body, broken for you” with bread — was born in the House of Bread!
Yeshua’s kind of “bread” differs from the ordinary kind, however. When we eat ordinary bread, it becomes us, so to speak. But when we appropriate Christ, we become increasingly like Him through the new birth.
Jesus spoke of the importance of being “born again” to Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and had come to Him at night in the hope of not being seen by his own colleagues. When we think about the definition of “Hebrew” meaning essentially “one who crossed over,” the word itself seems to speak of this new birth — in addition to Israel’s exodus. Consider Abraham, Rahab, and Ruth. They left their very different former lives to become Israelis — to “cross over” to a new and unknown life; they somehow summoned the faith to move toward this new life in preference to what was familiar. They sensed something better; they crossed over.
In Isaiah we find the stirring words, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; can you not perceive it?” We find a paraphrase of the first part of this statement in Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.”
Astrophysicists tell us that more than 200 finely-tuned characteristics of Earth reveal that the universal stage was set in advance for us — for billions of years. And that Earth is in a unique place and time parameter that enables us to observe these exquisite elements of design. A personal Creator had you and me in mind.
Scientists who have also studied Scripture recognize in it a setting forth in several texts — not only in those in Genesis 1 — of the astonishingly-unique process of setting the stage for our world for the very purpose of creating — not suns, but sons.
When He was physically present with us, Jesus often referred to Himself as “the Son of man.” He is described this way in the fiery-furnace story in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament as well. But after the resurrection His description, in the epistles for example, consistently becomes “the Son of God.”
“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He really is. And all who have this hope will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2,3)
The goal that Jesus put before Nicodemus is the same one He puts before you and me — to become citizens of the newer creation that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard.” The one in which weapons will have been transformed into garden tools that facilitate life. In which there will be no more killing or evil or death. No animal predation. No sickness or sorrow or night. The perfect creation — as God would design it.
“You must be born again,” Jesus told Nicodemus, the apparently wise, older man.
“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness — without it no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
God’s love and mercy are freely extended to all. He waits as long as He can. His desire is that as many as possible will enter the Kingdom of all things new.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, bridegroom, children, Christ, creation, daniel, death, egypt, evil, Exodus, freedom, God, Hebrew, holiness, hope, Jesus, Jordan, Kingdom, life, Old Testament, Red Sea, resurrection, Revelation, Scripture, Son of God, yeshua
Zola Levitt taught that while the Book of Job tells the story of a man — his story parallels the larger story of the country of Israel.
We remember early glimmerings of the important ideas in Job. For example, its raising the question “Why do the righteous suffer?”
And that most-beautiful statement of faith that Job managed to voice in the midst of his grievous trials: “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
As we read to see if there was anything in Job that opened the door for dark experiences, we consider his realization “The things that I have greatly feared have come upon me.”
We might even have gone so far as to look deeply at why God, rejoicing in Job’s righteousness, more or less paraded Job before Satan for him to consider — and ultimately take aim at. We heard one analyst observe that God’s boasting over Job to Satan was done with the hope that after Satan had taken all of his best shots, God would then be able to bless Job even more. We appreciate this opinion, because it arrives at the same enormously-loving Father that Jesus “walked” before us.
But Zola’s teaching that in Job, as in other scriptural stories, there is a parallel between the central figure’s story and Israel’s story is particularly helpful.
God knew that while Satan’s worst arrows would bring Job — and Israel — very low, even close to despairing — that Job and the Jewish people would never turn their backs on God. He knew that the crusades, the pogroms, World War II — all the horrific anti-Semitic experiences — would leave Israel an emaciated, disenfranchised state of “dry bones.” But He also knew, and even prophesied for Satan to see, that the dry bones would come together again, the scales would fall from Israel’s eyes; that the second time Yeshua appears, His own beloved brethren would run to embrace Him. That like Job, God’s beloved Israel will finally come into her own.
Posted in Featured Articles, Israel & The Jewish People Tagged with: faith, father, God, hope, israel, Jesus, jew, jewish, Jewish people, love, righteousness, yeshua
The debate between Dr. Brown and Dr. Ehrman, entitled “Does the Bible Provide an Adequate Answer to the Problem of Suffering?”, will be at Ohio State University on April 15th and will be broadcast live over the web. Click here for more information. Ehrman is a leading New Testament critic and has written extensively on the subject, authoring “God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer.” Pray that the truth of the hope of the gospel would be proclaimed clearly to a generation that desperately needs it!
Dr. Brown recently gave a lecture at CharlotteOne on this topic entitled “God and the Problem of Suffering.” You can listen below, or download it by clicking here.
Posted in News, Philosophy & Science Tagged with: Bart Ehrman, Dr. Michael Brown, hope, New Testament, suffering
“O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul…” -Ps. 131.1-2a
In our society, which moves at breakneck speed in a multitude of directions and pursuits, there is a remarkable temptation to involve our minds and hearts with matters too great and difficult for us. It is a rare thing to run into souls who have learned the art of quieting the soul before God.
In the world, men make success, promotion and knowledge the aim of all things, and if you would advance in those realms you’ve got to be a “go-getter,” an active mind, an ambitious, almost machinic person. Promotion and advancement have got to mean more to you than truth, family, and life itself, and you must be willing to climb the ladder of success by walking over the backs of others.
In the Church, the same kind of wisdom often festers and spreads. If we are not pursuing the same toys and statuses that the world pursues, we are often trampling our own souls with religious pursuits, ministerial striving, or other “Kingdom matters” which are too difficult for us. We ought never to engage our hearts in matters which remove us from a vital communion with Him, even if they are topics or ministries that appear valid and noteworthy. It is one thing to wrestle with a matter the Lord Himself sets before you, and to go along the trying pilgrimage hand in hand with the Great Shepherd. In those cases, there will be trial, stretching, and enlargement, but the whole journey will be marked by His nearness.
It is quite another thing to take up matters prematurely, and engage in thoughts and situations that the Lord never called us to touch. Are you being overwhelmed by fast-moving thoughts and anxieties? Are you looking in a multitude of directions to find the answers to the matters of life and spirituality? The Psalmist gives us the key to eternal liberty from the powers that influence us negatively. “Surely I have composed and quieted my soul…”
Thank God that Moses waited on the back side of the desert until the bush was inflamed.
Thank God that David received the word of the prophet Nathan, and waited in repentance until the heavenly “hyssop” cleaned his soul.
Thank God that Simeon was waiting for the true consolation of Israel, and was not satisfied with anything less than the appearance of the Son of God Himself.
Thank God that John the Baptist didn’t try to move into public ministry prematurely, and that he was willing to quiet his soul in the wilderness until the day of his showing forth.
Thank God that Jesus shot down the attempts of Satan to stir his humanity in the wilderness, overlooked the desires of His kinsmen to appoint Him King before the proper time, and pressed through the piercing pain of Gethsemane and Calvary for the “joy set before Him.”
Thank God that the 120 quieted their souls in the upper room, rather than raising funds for a new building and starting a campaign for Christianity.
What would have happened if all of these saints had chosen expedience over obedience? What would have happened if they would have looked to the world for help, or listened to the multitudinous streams of opinion and thought in their day? The revelation of God has broken into history upon the shoulders of weak men and women who have quieted their souls enough to hear what God Himself is speaking. The Lord chooses to reveal Himself by those means alone, and the fact that we have busied our minds and hearts rather than quieting our souls before Him is the primary reason our cities have seen so little of Him.
Jesus’ soul was quieted in the secret place, where He listened intently to the Voice of His Father. Because of this, He had an inward stillness and clarity in the home of Jairus, though his daughter had died, and He was surrounded by relatives whose emotions were in earthquake-mode. He brought a whole new reality into the midst of the instability of that home, and resurrection glory resulted.
The Lord means for His own people to manifest the same stillness and authority in these last days, and it’s only by quieting our souls and hearing the Voice of the Lord that we have the capacity for that kind of an expression. We have a calling to come into the holy place of stillness and communion, that our children may see His wonders, and that Israel and the nations would see in the Church “the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Only a people which has “composed and quieted” its soul will have the love and authority to speak to a bewildered nation:
“O Israel, hope in the Lord,
From this time forth and forever.” (v. 3)
Have you quieted your soul today, dear saint? If you have not consciously quieted your soul, it will immediately be swept up in the tide of this age. You can be assured that the thoughts and fears and confusions which plague the nations will soon enwrap your soul, for it is only in the conscious decision to quiet your soul that you are enabled to hear the Voice of the Lord. Lay down that which is too great and difficult for your soul. “Be still,” and know that He is God. There is a wisdom, peace, and grace which rests on the quieted soul, and you have unobstructed access to this blessed reality through the Blood of Jesus Christ. You need only to compose and quiet your soul before Him.
Then, as a precious 80-year old intercessor once charged me in regard to coming into the holy place, “You have to enter!”
The community of saints which comes into this kind of soul-quietude before God will become a resounding voice in the cities of the earth, whose words are as His, “spirit and life.”
(Jn. 6.63b) Remarkably, the souls who have quieted their hearts are the same ones permitted and privileged to speak in the time of their showing forth. Those who have consciously quieted their own souls are the ones to hear His voice, thereby becoming more than an echo of other men.
The Lord is wanting to form a holy community in the earth, who can with one voice proclaim, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!'” (Mt. 3.3)
For this, His voice must increase, and the activity of my soul and the varying voices in the world must decrease.
The quieting of the soul is not for the timid, dainty and cowardly. It is not simply a syrupy sweet journey through flat plains, highlighted by cloudless skies and warm breezes. It requires an inward violence to shut the gate against the hustle and bustle of this age and the distractions and pressures which will invariably strike our hearts when we set out to seek His face. We’ve got to come boldly, making every effort to enter His rest, and to quiet our souls before the Throne. John the Immerser “took it by force” (Mt. 11.12) in the wilderness, and so must we. Shut out the other voices, saints. If it requires shutting off the computer, unplugging the television, and taking the phone off of the hook, let it be done. Let your soul be composed and quieted before the Lord. There you will hear His voice, and Christ will be all in all to your soul.
Isn’t this what your spirit cries out for, after all?
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: Be still, God, hope, Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, listen, quiet, rest, the church, wait for the Lord
As I ponder this new year and all the changes that it will bring, I can’t help but wonder what lies ahead for the Church at large. There is no doubt as we look around that people are hungry for something real. Modern day music lyrics strain with the weight of a cry for change, and truth, and something to ease the pain or fear that living in this world can bring. Television reality shows flood the media industry: everyone is looking to remodel something, as though changing a house, or wardrobe, or image can bring about the necessary relief from the struggle to find some form of happiness.
In the midst of it all, the Church is on the brink of a destiny waiting to be fulfilled. Looking back through history, in Moses’ day when the magicians in Pharoah’s court appeared to be able to copy Moses’ signs up to a point and then had to admit defeat, or when Elijah was able to call down fire on Mount Carmel after the prophets of Baal tried and failed to imitate the miracle, or when Queen Esther was able to go before the king and save the people of Israel from destruction at Haman’s hand (who pretended to love the king until he was exposed), God is trying, again, to raise up people who can stand in the gap to bring freedom and change. With uncertainty in the economy; a collapse in the foundation of families (and the attempt of certain groups to undermine the very definition of covenant marriages); the rise in teen-age suicide, and violent crimes, and drug trafficking, there has never been a greater need for hope.
As I look around at the Church, today, I see two things taking place. One, there is a shift in some towards works and superficiality…a vain attempt to control through one’s own efforts the changes taking place in the world. There is a shift, as in the world, to be THE deliverer…the one that rescues the “poor, down-trodden from the changes taking place.” The problem with this is that no one person can carry the destiny that was meant for a Church to fulfill (by Church, I mean that group of people world-wide who were meant to know Jesus intimately and reflect His heart to a frustrated, hurting world in a way that no other religion or man-made organization can carry out…a Body of people that can only fulfill this destiny as Christ, as the Head, gives them strength and strategy).
At the same time, there is a people rising up who are willing to humble themselves and lose everything to see the world the way Christ sees. They are willing to walk as Jesus walked…to die to their very reputations and be humiliated if needs-be to have just one opportunity to show the world the love of Christ. They are not superstars or fast-talkers with a misguided attempt to carry out strategies of their own design or steps for change: rather, they are willing to wait, and live out their daily lives in submission to Christ seeing daily the fruit that comes from letting His love shine through. In the midst of the darkness, they don’t curse, or grow angry, or bitter, or manipulative, or proud, but they shine a light that slowly burns and cannot be extinguished. They are a remant…a world-wide family that recognizes one another by the heart of Christ that glows on the inside. God is opening a door for them that cannot be shut…an open heaven where they daily seek His Presence and walk and talk with Him, and they, in turn, open the door to their hearts. May we be part of this remnant…may we let God make of 2009 a year that will mark a difference in our hearts through a courage in knowing, as we follow Him, that He is with us, and that, in the darkness, He will forever be our light.
Posted in Life & Family Tagged with: change, hope, Reality, the church
Perhaps it’s the holiday season–perhaps it’s just the excitement in the air over the election that’s come and gone, and the dreams people have of “something more” about to come (almost the feeling children have in dreaming about what they’ll find on Christmas morning), but as I write this article, my thoughts are drawn towards the question: “What are we hoping for and waiting on and dreaming about as we look at the world around us?” There are so many things that people hope in. People hope that their insurance companies will rescue them financially if an accident, or fire, or other tragedy occurs. Some people hope in the national government to send them a pension check, or welfare stipulation, or military benefits each month, and rest knowing that the government will keep its promises and all will be well each month. Other people rest in a paycheck, and promises of promotion, and natural skills, abilities, ambition or talents that help them move up the ladder quickly so that they can earn more money for themselves and their families. Still others hope in people around them–perhaps children who live at home and depend on their parents to provide, or friends who step in to take care of one another, but the truth is that all of us hope in something or someone. In other words, even the most dogmatic atheist who claims not to believe in anything is still trusting in something: even if it’s themselves.
Have you ever asked yourself why? Where does this faith come from? What is it deep inside of us that causes us to reach for something that we can hold onto? Again, even if you read this statement and say, “I’m not looking for anything to hold onto. I have everything that I need,” you are still trusting in something or someone. Ask yourself, “What am I holding onto?” Is it someone or something that could be taken away someday? Recently, I received the news that a friend I loved like a brother passed away at a very young age leaving behind a young wife. No one knew the news was coming. Just like that, my friend is gone. He spent his whole life believing in a God that never goes away, and in the end, he died knowing that he will spend eternity without sickness, or fear, or sorrow, or pain. He knew that he would immediately slip from this life into the arms of a God who has carried my friend from the day that he was born. His wife has the same assurance, and that faith is what’s carrying her through. Again, what are you resting on?
Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes unto the Father except through me.” You might read that and see Jesus’ statement as arrogance or narrow-minded, or say to me that a loving God would not require every person in the world to believe in only one thing as an access into Heaven. Or, you can read that statement as it was intended in the way that Jesus meant it when it was first spoken: that we can choose to give Him all our cares, our worries, and our burdens, and let Him make a way for us. He chose to come, and give His life out of love for us in such a way that, if we will let Him, He will take away all the fear, and sorrow, and worry that can come from living in this life. He said, “In this world, you will have trouble, but don’t fear; I have overcome the world.” He paid the price for us, and took the responsibility upon Himself. That doesn’t mean that we won’t go through heartache or difficult times but wouldn’t you rather let the weight of those times rest upon the shoulders of a God who loved you enough to come and stand with you in the darkness until light shines again, rather than carry the burden of it yourself? Again, what are you believing in to carry you through?
The Christmas message is not a foolish one–or just a cute story of a baby lying in a manger–it is the ultimate testimony of a God who never wanted us to have to build our lives on a shaky foundation or live even one day alone. He came in our loneliness, our “lostness,” our questions, and worry, and fear, and said, “Come unto Me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” He came so that we could lean against a strong, sure Foundation that can never be shaken. What love He gives to those who choose to come! It is not a narrow-minded, spiteful, religious message, but a message born of hope , and joy, and peace in whatever season you might find yourself. You can rest knowing that Jesus will never leave you, or forsake you: that He will stand with you in all the ups and downs, and joys and tears if you will choose to let Him love you. You might say that He is not real, or that He doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t know what you are going through. Nicole Nordeman sings a song that says:
“What if you’re right? He was just another nice guy. What if You’re right? What if it’s true? They say the cross will only make a fool of you. What if it’s true? What if He takes His place in history with all the prophets and the kings who taught us love and came in peace, but then the story ends? What then? But what if you’re wrong? What if there’s more? What if there’s hope you’ve never dreamed of hoping for? What if You jump? Just close your eyes. What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise? What if He’s more than enough? What if it’s love? What if you dig way down deeper than your simple-minded friends? What if you dig? What if you find a thousand more unanswered questions down inside? That’s all you find? What if you pick apart the logic and begin to poke the holes?
What if the crown of thorns is no more than folklore that must be told and retold, and retold? But what if you’re wrong?…’Cuz you’ve been running as fast as you can. You’ve been looking for a place you land for so long. But what if you’re wrong? What if You jump? Just close your eyes. What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise? What if He’s more than enough? What if it’s love?”
Posted in Life & Family Tagged with: depend on, faith, hope, Jesus, live for, Nicole Nordeman, trust