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Archive for July, 2015

Some time ago, I was quite struck by how often I came across the Greek word translated “endurance” (hupomone) in the New Testament.

Over and over again, it appeared in verses that are vital to the growth of the Christian — areas in the New Testament like the discussion of trials and the importance of rejoicing in the midst of them — so that our endurance can grow (James 1:3-4, 12).

Hupomone is critical enough to the maturing of the disciple of Jesus that Paul prayed regularly for it in the lives of the Colossians (Col. 1:9-12).

The godly quality that hupomone brings is strongly linked to our ability to walk by faith — despite adverse circumstances and the often long waiting for God to come through for us (e.g. Heb. 10:36; cf. the broader context of Heb. 10:35-11:1, 6).

Because of this importance, I did a word study on hupomone and have committed it to memory, because when I see the word, I want to meditate on its meaning and prayerfully apply it to my life.

This word involves a patient endurance; it means to stand firm; to bear up under; to patiently wait in hope.  It derives from faith and hope (Rom. 8:25).

Hupomone is never a complaining or despondent endurance!  In fact, in ancient Greek culture, it was used of that which came upon man against his will and later, it was that quality which enabled a man to die for his god.

So when I come across it while reading the New Testament (cf. also Rom. 15:4-5; 2 Cor. 1:6; 6:4; 1 Thess. 1:3), I try to pause and prayerfully consider the depth of meaning of this word and ask God to help me to develop it.

Is that a prayer God wants to answer?

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“The LORD is compassionate and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness” (Ps. 103:8).

The Hebrew word translated “lovingkindness” (“mercy” in the NIV) is in my opinion the most significant word in the entire Bible and I’ll explain why I believe this after defining the word.

The Hebrew word is hesed and can be translated (depending upon its context) five different ways: 1) covenant loyalty; 2) steadfast love; 3) faithfulness; 4) mercy; 5) devotion.

Obviously, this is an extremely rich word!  But here is why I believe it is the most important word in the Bible: First, it gives us extraordinary insight from God Himself into His nature and how He relates to His own.

We might say that He is perfectly loyal to us; He is perfectly devoted to us; His love for us is perfectly steadfast (i.e. reliable); He is perfectly faithful to us and His mercy is perfect toward us — especially through the blood of Jesus.

hesed

When we read in 1 John 4:8 that “God is love,” there is behind this insight the Old Testament understanding of precisely what that love “looks like” and entails: it is His hesed.

In essence, God’s hesed tells man who He is and how He relates to us.  Without this understanding of Him, it would be utterly impossible to know Him; we would be lost!  And note that this revelation or self-disclosure from God to us comes in the Old Testament!

This should forevermore dispel the false notion that “the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath, but the God of the New Testament is a God of love”!

Finally, I believe this word is the most important word in the entire Bible because repeatedly throughout the Old Testament, God calls His followers to treat each other in exactly the same way He treats us — with His hesed.

Hence, all five meanings of hesed apply to the way we are to treat each other.

Here is how I apply hesed, every time I see it in the Old Testament: I try to stop and thank Him for all five qualities.  Now, I’m not only reading the Bible — I’m interacting in prayer with the One who inspired it for me!

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I love studying God’s Word in-depth and greatly enjoy looking up the definitions of many Hebrew and Greek words.

Doing so just brings out so much of a greater meaning to the original Hebrew language of the Old Testament, written more than 3,000 years ago.

It is the same for the Greek language, which the New Testament was written in, and that was 2,000 years ago!

Fortunately, we have quite a plethora of outstanding Hebrew and Greek scholars to benefit from. I also had the great privilege of studying Hebrew and Greek for one year each in my seminary days.

I love “giving back,” and I also love doing all I can to teach and inspire others to study His Word and to get more out of it!

For these reasons, I’m going to offer here periodic word studies to help you, the reader, get much more out of Scripture.

Today, I’ll offer four key definitions from Psalm One:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

tree by a stream of water

The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.

This psalm is clearly promising a superior quality of life to the one who heeds it! So, what does it mean to be “blessed”? The Hebrew word, ashrey, means to be supremely happy!”

It also means “to be fulfilled; to be highly envied” because of the godly man or woman’s relationship with the LORD.

To apply this to your life, tell the LORD that you want this and will do what it takes to be that man or woman who is supremely happy and to be fulfilled. Is this a prayer He wants to answer?

The second important Hebrew word to define is “law” (the Hebrew word is Torah). It would actually be much better translated “teaching,” or “instruction,” which the Bible is full of, for our benefit and for the benefit of countless others, as they see our lives blessed by God.

That brings us to the third important definition: “LORD”: the Hebrew word is Yahweh, and it refers to Him as the personal, covenant-keeping, active One.

You and I can apply this name for God – which appears more than 6,800 times in the Old Testament – by simply saying to Him, “Thank You that You are personal with me; thank You that You keep Your covenant with me; thank You that You are active in my life!”

picture of psalm one

The fourth very important word to define is the Hebrew word translated “meditate” (hagah). This word means “to ponder,” which means we must take our time in reading this and all of God’s Word; it is far too valuable to rush through and miss its nuggets!

In addition, it means to “study,” to “speak with one’s self” (i.e. about something so important). To apply this, I read God’s Word out loud to myself.

I stop and ponder various words, pray over them, talk to Yahweh about them and memorize many of the verses I read, so that they will truly be with me, in my spirit, “day and night.”

If you apply the things I’ve written here, my friend, you will experience all that Psalm One promises; after all, it is for you!

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meaning of life

Is there only temporary meaning in life? Do we die, and then all meaning of life ends with us? Or, is there something more?

Let’s think about some ordinary observations of life that we might not ordinarily give much thought to.

For example, there is hope in our lives, in our world. Sometimes that hope is realized and at others, it is (or seems) dashed. But hope is not always fulfilled.

If there is therefore imperfect hope, our frame of reference must be looking for perfect hope. Let’s take rest; we all enjoy its various aspects: a break from work; a vacation; a nap.

We need rest and in fact, we yearn for it. Once again, we have some frame of reference for imperfect rest; there must be a perfect “rest,” even in the midst of worthy pursuits.

We experience temporary joy and temporary love. Yet these are both imperfect. We are not always joyful; others may demonstrate love to us, but that love is imperfect – just as the love we give is imperfect.

Most people want their lives to count for something; they want their lives to matter. But why? Why should we desire these noble things? I would argue that we desire all of these things because we live in an imperfect world that must have at one time experienced perfection.

meaning

But how would we know these things? If we look to any human being, we have to realize that opinions vary; arguments about things like the meaning of life are rarely consistent from one person to the next.

Is there an objective source for the meaning of life that we can go to? Yes, there is; the meaning of life comes from the One who designed it, created it and from whom all of these things emanate.

Our proof comes from the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, who fixes broken lives, who repairs what is torn down, who restores, who loves perfectly.

He promises that He will get to the root of the imperfections we see in us and in our world. But first, He says that He must cleanse us from our sin and deliver us from our sinful ways.

He offers and He does the cleansing work, but only if we will surrender our broken, imperfect lives to Him.

For those who do this, His Word, the Bible, continually promises us full, perfect love, meaning, hope, joy and everything else we know is of value.

celtic-cross-images-monasterboice-2

But there is so much more than a temporary value; there is an eternal value that all who belong to Him will one day enter into.

Tragically, there are so many people who will reject what Jesus offers. Their rejection ranges from a polite, “not now,” to an intense, “I want nothing to do with Him!”

Jesus said men and women would respond in these and other ways. He said that people are created to live for eternity. Some believe that but not all. If He is right and they are wrong, there must be consequences.

In the end, they will get what they want: themselves; they will live and associate with all who have rejected His eternal offer of freedom from sin and the restoration to what we were created to be.

Where do you stand, friend? I hope I’ve helped you to see that there is a decision that is infinitely more important than all of our decisions.

This is a decision for the ultimate meaning of life; it is a decision to invite the One who created you to forgive and restore you and to make real and permanent what we now experience as real, but so very temporary.

Where do you stand? What choice will you make before Him today?

If you desire to make a choice for Him now, I invite you to pick up a Bible and turn to John 3:16-21, read it and ask Jesus to forgive you of your sin and tell Him you choose to belong to Him for eternity.

Then, read the rest of the Bible, beginning with all of John’s gospel to find out who Jesus is, what He desires for you and what He will give you in return for your self-giving to Him.

Write me and tell me of your decision; I’m praying for you!

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