The Gift of Love

I have been struck by the revelation of Christ in the book of Hosea.

I have been reading Ann Spangler’s “Praying the Names of God,” and was struck by this phrase, “Praise God because he is not power, knowledge, or wealth, but he is love.”

I have been struck by the revelation of Christ in the book of Hosea.

Contextually, Hosea is a prophet and God gives him a terribly difficult assignment to marry a prostitute who is adulterous and will bear children out of her unfaithfulness. Hosea is to deliver a prophetic judgment against Israel and Judah for their spiritual adultery in departing from the Lord.

Hosea 1:2

2 When the LORD first spoke to Hosea, He told him, “Go, take a prostitute as your wife and have children of adultery, because this land is flagrantly prostituting itself by departing from the LORD.”

Most readers and commentators will make this book as historical regarding the judgment of Israel, of which it is, and yet they miss Christ in the text. I believe if we look a little closer, the text has very clear language about promises that are fulfilled in Christ. Charles Spurgeon once said “A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it.”

Let’s look at the meaning of the names of our cast and finish with words of redemptive fulfillment.

Gomer

1) Gomer, the name of Hosea’s unfaithful wife comes from the Hebrew word ‘gamar’, meaning complete! What? I think many times people are given names which signify their calling in spite of how their lives seem to be anything but. For example, my name Timothy means Honoring of God. I’m still working on that one, lol! In the beginning of our story, Gomer is far from complete, looking for love in all the wrong places. Yet, with salvation offered to her through Christ (Hosea is a type), she can become complete through sacrifice, mercy (Hosea bought her back for fifteen shekels, the number of mercy), and everlasting love.

Aren’t we all like Gomer, continually running after the things that we think will make us complete, but leave us empty?

Jezreel

2) Jezreel, their first son’s name means “God sows.” I have been to the Jezreel valley which has become the breadbasket for modern day Israel. It’s now lush and fruitful. Yet, there’s more. God would sow a seed which would make the promises given to Abraham come to pass.

Hosea 2:22-23a (NASB)

And the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine and to the oil, And they will respond to Jezreel.

I will sow her for Myself in the land.

Hosea 1:10

Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”

This first portion of Hosea 1:10 was a prophetic promise given to Abraham and fulfilled in Christ.

Galatians 3:29

And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

Lo-Ruhamah

3) Gomer’s second child is a daughter, named Lo-Ruhamah, meaning not loved or no mercy. We don’t know if the child was conceived out of unfaithfulness or not. What kind of name is that for a child? And yet, there’s something here for all of us who have felt like we weren’t loved or times where we received no mercy.

Hosea 1:6-7

6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy,a for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”

Mercy did come through the house of Judah through Christ, and the salvation that has come did not come through military might but through Jesus as Lord and the one who offered himself up as a gift of love and the way to salvation.

In the day of Christ, we can assure our brothers and sisters in Chris that they have received mercy and they are no longer unloved, but fully accepted and loved (Eph 1:6).

Hosea 2:1

Say to your brothers, “You are my people,”and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”

Lo-Ammi

4) Lo-Ammi was the name Gomer was to give to her second son, meaning not my people. While slightly less egregious than Lo-Ruhamah, we all have a need to feel like we belong. People even join gangs out of this strong need to belong.

Hosea 1:9

9 And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people, and I am not your God.

Wow, this is the language of disownment, and yet, God promises that this will be reversed.

Hosea 1:10

10 Yet the number of the Israelites will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’

This is the language of covenant and the phrase ‘not my people’ is a phrase that prophetically points to the time of the Gentiles. Apostle Paul writes the following:

Romans 9:22-26

22 What if God, intending to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the vessels of His wrath, prepared for destruction? 23 What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the vessels of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory— 24 including us, whom He has called not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles? 25 As He says in Hosea:

“I will call them ‘My People’ who are not My people,

and I will call her ‘My Beloved’ who is not My beloved,”

26 and,

“It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them,

‘You are not My people,’

they will be called

‘sons of the living God.’”

Hosea

5) Hosea comes from Hoshea or Joshua and means salvation. In the story, Hosea’s marrying an unfaithful bride is a picture of Jesus offering the gift of love and redemption to those who accept this offer.

The Hebrew word will look at here is ‘Ish’ meaning husband. ‘Ishi’ is first person for ‘my’ husband. In the day of Christ, our relationship has gone from knowing God as master or Lord to one that’s much more personal, my husband.

Hosea 2:16-17, 19-20

16 “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.

19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.

Hosea still has to keep running after his wife, even after providing for her and giving her children.

Hosea 3:1-2

1 And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethecha of barley.

What kind of husband is this that goes after us in our adultery and unfaithfulness, and buys us back in love and out of his mercy? His name is Jesus.


Conclusion

If I look to the end of Hosea, I see language referring to a ‘He’, whereas Israel is always referred to as a woman in the scriptures.

Hosea 14

1Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,

for you have stumbled by your iniquity.

2Bring your confessions

and return to the LORD.

Say to Him: “Take away all our iniquity

and receive us graciously,

that we may present

the fruit of our lips.

3Assyria will not save us,

nor will we ride on horses.

We will never again say, ‘Our gods!’

to the work of our own hands.

For in You the orphan finds compassion.”

4I will heal their apostasy;

I will freely love them,

for My anger has turned away from them.

5I will be like the dew to Israel;

he will blossom like the lily

and take root like the cedars of Lebanon.

6His shoots will sprout,

and his splendor will be like the olive tree,

his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon.

7They will return and dwell in his shade;

they will grow grain and blossom like the vine.

His renown will be

like the wine of Lebanon.

😯 Ephraim, what have I to do

anymore with idols?

It is I who answer and watch over him.

I am like a green cypress tree;

your fruit comes from Me.

9Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;

whoever is discerning, let him know them.

For the ways of the LORD are right,

and the righteous walk in them,

but the rebellious stumble in them.

The shoots of Christ have sprouted and have spread. His fragrance is the spirit of salvation available to all who take it in. It’s the gift of love.

A New Creation

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

The Greek word for ‘new’ in context is kainos, according to Strong’s it can also be described as fresh, recently made, of a new kind, unprecedented, uncommon, unheard of.

The Greek word for ‘behold’ is idou, and the Hebrew root (הֵן) pronounced ‘hayn’ for the word ‘behold’ is an interjection and contains the elements of surprise, to pay attention, and to pause in order to really notice and consider.

Contextually, Paul is speaking of no longer regarding people that have accepted Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection as worldly. They are new creations. The word of faith is regarding identity, not sanctification as the some theologians would have you believe.

The text doesn’t say that “he is becoming” a new creation, it says “he IS” a new creation. By the way, the text is gender neutral as there is no male or female in matters of spiritual identity (Gal 3:28). The text doesn’t say that one is becoming new, the tense is that one HAS become new. A change of identity has already taken place.

For those who have accepted Jesus’ offer of a new life, the enemy of your soul and religion don’t want you to know who you are.

Satan repeatedly asked Jesus, “IF you are the son of God.” If Satan would tempt Jesus to believe lies about his identity, wouldn’t he do the same for you and I?

“Do you know who you are?”

The movie, “The Lion King,” contained a powerful portrayal of the very real issue of identity that we all must wrestle with. In the movie, Simba believed the lies that the enemy of his soul had told him. As a result, he lived in a place of shame and exile. Current researcher Brene’ Brown defines shame this way, “Guilt=I did something bad. Shame=I am bad.” The good news is that God offers a solution for both. The offer of continuing forgiveness of sins (for guilt) and a new identity (for shame).

Paul also made this statement:

Galatians 6:15 (ESV)

For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

Paul makes the bold claim that our religious efforts (circumcision) isn’t what will matter in the end, but our identity.

I want to introduce two Hebrew words to you as they have bearing on you becoming a new creation, giving credit to Rabbi Jonathan Kahn for the inspiration.

Rechem (H7357) רֶחֶם

This word means womb in Hebrew, and has racham as its root. The womb is the place where a delicate and precious new life is formed. The womb is a place of protection, warmth, nurture, and love.

In a healthy relationship, a child is conceived out of love. It is no different with God.

Most people that have gone through the experience of raising a child will have lots of respect and compassion for any pregnant woman. A pregnant woman usually evokes a compassionate response, and we will make all kinds of concessions for her.

A womb in Hebraic thought is synonymous with the word compassion. In fact, they come from the same Hebrew root.

Racham (H7358) רָחַם

This is a Hebrew word meaning to be soft, to have compassion, to pity, to show mercy, to cherish, to love.

Let’s tie some concepts together. In John chapter 3, we find the Pharisee named Nicodemus asking Jesus a question under the cover of darkness. Nicodemus exclaims that Jesus couldn’t do the miracles that he did unless God were with him.

John 3:3-6 (ESV)
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Jesus was instructing Nicodemus in being born again of the spirit. This offer of becoming born again only comes through believing in the Son.

John 3:14-17
14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15 “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

“For God so loved the world.” How can you believe that God loves you? I offer one new thought. God offers a new identity for you in the womb of God. The womb is a symbol of racham, where God offers compassion, mercy, warmth, and love. Your new identity is birthed in that love, and you are a new creation as a result.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “the old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Those old wounds in your soul of shame and rejection don’t have to stay.

Personally, I have been born again for fifteen years, and yet I am just now starting to get this. Recently, I have heard multiple messages regarding identity, building up my faith and tying things together. I am so tired of being rejected. I have decided that the only antidote to repeated rejection and the accompanying hurt is an upgrade in my identity. I am taking hold of this important truth by faith. I have a new identity and that is where I need to live from.

John 1:12 (NIV)
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

You see, if you are in Christ, you HAVE been given a new identity as a child of God. You ARE a new creation. You HAVE a new life and destiny. You WERE born again in the womb of God. You WERE shown compassion and given mercy. You WERE conceived in love (for God so loved you).

It doesn’t matter what your old identity was.

Your new identity is who you are having been birthed anew out of the womb of God. You have been made new, clean, fresh, innocent, and dearly loved.

That is who you ARE, a new creation!

If you don’t yet know Jesus, an offer still stands for you to be cleansed, forgiven, and to receive a new identity and destiny.

The 4 C’s of Love

I don’t know about you, but I have wrestled with how to define love and how to know what love is.  I believe everyone must work out their understanding of love through scripture and through the lessons of life.

When looking for a quality diamond, there are four aspects (4 C’s) to consider – color, clarity, carats, and cost.  In a similar manner, I have learned what I call the 4 C’s of love, and that they are in progressive measure – compassion, caring, commitment, and covenant.

Compassion:
The first level of love (compassion) is situational, but it does not necessarily involve any kind of relationship, great cost, or commitment.  Nevertheless, the recipient will often feel cared for as a result.

Mark 1:41
Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him. “I am willing,” He told him. “Be made clean.”

Compassion is represented by the Greek root spl├ñ’nkh-non meaning from the spleen or bowels (G4698), and by the Hebrew root racham (H7356), meaning from the womb (as if cherishing a fetus), from the bowels, having pity or mercy on someone.

Most of the healing and miracles that were recorded in scripture were done out of compassion.

I am not someone who has a natural bent towards mercy or compassion, but if my heart is soft, the LORD’s compassion can flow through me from time to time.

I am learning to try to be more available for the LORD’s compassion to move through me.

Caring:
The next level of love is caring.  This goes beyond being compassion towards someone in a moment of need.

Last year, I had been wrestling inside with the probing question of whether I loved or cared for people.  Shortly after that time of wrestling, a situation came up affecting my rheumatologist whom I had known for the past sixteen years.  We had gotten to know about each other’s lives, families, and she had let me share my faith with her.  I had prayed for her and her family daily.  She had recently been diagnosed with a rare immune disorder of the blood, was in the hospital, and nobody knew if she would be coming back.  I was furious.  I was ticked off at SatanΓÇÖs strategies to steal, kill, and destroy.  He couldn’t have her or take her life.  Out of this, I realized that I do care.  I stepped into the gap and stepped up interceding for her for a period of six months.  After that season, the burden lifted, and sadly, she has since gone to be with the LORD.  I believe she came to know Jesus before she passed on.  She was a blessing to me.

I can think of no better example of caring in the scriptures than the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Luke 10:33-36
33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion.
34 He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’

Commitment:
The third level of love is commitment.  It is easier to say I love you and much harder to do.  Spend three days with me and then see if you still love me.

Commitment has an element of loyalty.  Most of us have limits of how long we will be loyal to a person, institution or cause.  In the Hebrew, the word ‘chesed‘ (H2617) sometimes translated as mercy is best described as the intersection of kindness, goodness, and steadfastness.

Long-term friendships, children, and marriage are good examples of loving commitment.

In a marriage which is a long-term commitment, one of the ways we show our love for one another is our commitment, fidelity, and our faithfulness to one another.  Marriage is God’s design for sexual expression, faithfulness, and commitment.  There is a level of commitment in a marriage (how many times must I forgive?), that aren’t in most relationships.  Jesus had the following to say:

Matthew 19:4-6
4 “Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,”
5 and He also said: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?
6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

In the new covenant scriptures, the Greek word ‘agape‘ is introduced.  It is commonly described as unconditional love.  However, when love is tested, this is really difficult to do.  ‘Agape’ is also described as God’s kind of love, for loving anyone unconditionally often becomes impossible when the going gets tough.

John 13:34-35
34 “I give you a new command: Love (agape) one another. Just as I have loved (agape) you, you must also love (agape) one another.
35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love (agape) for one another.”

For example, I can purpose in my heart that I will always love my daughter.  However, there are times as a teenager that my love and respect are tested and for a while seem to disappear.  I have learned that I need the power of the Holy Spirit for me to forgive, to soften my heart, restore the relationship, and to love again.

When Jesus over on the earth as Son of Man, He demonstrated love in different ways and measure.

John 21:15-17
15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) Me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love (phileo) You.”  “Feed My lambs,” He told him.
16 A second time He asked him, Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) Me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love (phileo) You.”  “Shepherd My sheep,” He told him.
17 He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) Me?”  Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, ‘Do you love (phileo) Me?’ He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love (phileo) You.” “Feed My sheep,” Jesus said.

Peter had previously learned that his efforts to be faithful, ultimately would fail (he previously denied knowing the LORD three times).  When Jesus asked Peter, will you love me without condition (agape), Peter knew in his heart that loving him as a friend (phileo) was the best he could offer.

It has been said that it takes God to love God.  There will be life events that we go through where we are disillusioned or disappointed.

I would also submit to you that it takes God to love someone without condition.  There are ways we are treated (e.g. disrespect, betrayals of trust, disappointment, unmet expectations, harsh words, sinful behavior, being condemned) that on our own we simply can not tolerate.  All that we can do is to forgive and pray for those who mistreat us.

Covenant:
Covenant is the fourth and greatest level of a love commitment.  Covenant requires the shedding of blood to ratify it.  It goes beyond a contract which is legally binding; it is to be a commitment that is to last for the life of the one making the commitment.  Marriage is to be an example of this kind of loving relationship.  At an even more profound level, Jesus offers his own blood to bind our hearts to His as an everlasting covenant.

Many books have been written on the subject of covenant.  I recommend studying the book of Hebrews.  I would suggest the following to summarize the covenant that Jesus offers to us, knowing that any attempt will be complete.

1) The forgiveness of sins

Matthew 26:28 (HCSB)
For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.

2) Establishment as a first-born son (there is no gender in the spirit), and being considered, and called family

Hebrews 8:10 (HCSB)
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.

3) The faithfulness of God

2 Timothy 2:13 (HCSB)
if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

Hebrews 10:23 (HCSB)
Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 13:5 (HCSB)
Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.

Conclusion:
Like a good diamond, love has different facets, ways of expression and ways of considering value.  I believe that Jesus showed different levels of love commitment, depending on the context that He was in.  He demonstrated the 4 C’s of love (compassion, caring, commitment, and covenant), and invites us to do the same.

 

Teach us to see

2 Corinthians 5:14-16
14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;
15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.

Love does not see the faults and weaknesses of others. If you love and care for someone, one can overlook their faults. You don’t even see them.  The adage ‘love is blind’ has some truth to it.  On the other hand, if you don’t like someone or even hate them, you will have no trouble seeing their faults. In fact, their faults are all that you will see.

I recently coached a volleyball team where one of the players and her mom had taken up an offense with three other players on the team, and had begun labeling them as bullies.  After a particularly difficult match, their judgments and wounds surfaced in the form of anger, tears, and blame. Both the daughter and the mom had been nursing a wound for months and had become bitter. I counseled the mother and daughter to forgive them, but they couldn’t hear me through their shared offense.  Ultimately, they ended up leaving the team as they were unable to forgive.

In seeking to understand the situation, the Holy Spirit took me to this verse.

Hebrews 12:15
15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

Even though I didn’t want to share in their offense, I inadvertently began to see the faults of these three players and began to lose the ability to see their good qualities.  I lost the ability to love them.  In the player and mom airing their judgement of the players as bullies, I became defiled by it.

There is a Hebrew idiom that talks about whether your eye is good or bad (Matthew 6:22-23).

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.
23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!”

This idiom of contrasting a good eye – ‘ayin tov’ with a bad eye – ‘ayin rah’ applies to someone’s attitude towards others.  A good eye or one that is ‘single’ is one who sees generously.  A good or single eye is an eye which sees the treasure and value in people and does not really ‘see’ their faults.  A bad eye or one that is ‘stingy’ is one who sees critically and sees the faults and makes assessments and judgment of others.

We see this same reference in Proverbs 22:9.

He who has a generous eye will be blessed, For he gives of his bread to the poor.

The reference to a generous eye in Hebrew is the same, ‘ayin tov’, or a good eye.  The eye represents the condition of the heart.

Certainly this refers back to Deuteronomy 15:7-11, which deals with our heart towards those in need.  Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Adonai Jireh (Genesis 22-14) has been unfortunately translated as the ‘God who provides’ instead of the ‘God who will see’.  When God sees our need, He will respond.  In this regard, we are called to be like God.

How will we see?  Will we see a persons’ need and good qualities through a good eye or will we see through a critical lens?

Recently at a spiritual retreat, a good friend of mine shared that “any time, we are walking in judgement of someone, fear, or anger, we have stepped out of love and are walking in darkness.”

I would suggest to you that statement is true, and encourage you to search the scriptures to confirm it.

1 John 1:7
7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

What are the antidotes to seeing in the flesh and making a bitter root judgment?  There are at least two.  Forgiveness and the sober warning not to walk in judgment.

What most of us miss are the words Jesus spoke right after teaching us how to pray.

Matthew 6:14-15
14 “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.
15 But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.”

And

Matthew 7:1-2
1 “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.
2 For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

The name Daniel means God is my judge.  Humility is required to let God be judge instead of ourselves.  Without humility, we won’t find favor with God (James 4:6).

The call to each of us is to not see through the eyes of judgment (the flesh), but rather to see generously and see the way that God sees a person and their need.

As an application, I would ask God this question, “How would you like me to see this person in light of their need?”

The one who walks in the light walks in love.

LORD, help us to see the way that you see.

 

Meaning of Christmas

 

I know I am in the minority, but for a number of years, I have struggled with Christmas.

First of all, let us be clear. Jesus was a Torah keeping Jew. There are no ordinances described in scripture for keeping either Christmas or Easter. In fact, both of these Holidays have pagan roots with respect to their origin and traditions. There is an ordinance about keeping Passover, but the church has lost touch with its Hebraic roots, in my opinion.

I have learned that I am not one who easily goes along with traditions without understanding the reasons why we are doing something. I have always needed to know the “why” before I can be onboard.

I have learned that I don’t want to be a “Scrooge,” nor do I want to be negative or critical. However, I do want to be authentic and I do want to be sincere.

Philippians 4:8 teaches us to focus on what is true, what is good, and what is worthy of praise. So does love for that matter.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

As I have wrestled this internal conflict this year, I have come to understand that the cross of Christ is the central event of scripture. His supernatural entry into Mary’s virgin womb made a way for that to happen, but this is an entryway into the incarnation of God for humanity and not the culmination of God’s story.

If I can’t give praise for trees, ornaments, gifts, and shopping, what can I give genuine praise about?

I can be thankful that God sent his Son into the world for me. That is the greatest gift I can ever receive. God cared enough to give me the greatest gift of all. The gift of love.

Of course, this gift is not for me alone, but for you, too. Will you discover this gift this year?

John 3:16-17
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

I believe that this is the message we should be focused on. 1 John 4:19 teaches us that we love because He first loved us. In knowing how much we are loved, we will care more for ourselves and for one another.

What could be more important than that?

I don’t know what day of the year, his birth actually fell on, but that isn’t that important when compared to love entering the world in order to redeem it.

If Christmas is to be about anything, I want it to be about being thankful. I want to be thankful for the Father’s gift of life for me. I want Christmas to be a time of reflection and thanksgiving, focused on Jesus. When our focus is there, we can love out of an overflow, not out of meeting or managing the expectations of others.

Take the time to know that you are loved. When you get it, please pay it forward.

Be loved this Christmas…

 

Markers of His Love

 

Isaiah 49:14-16

Zion says, “The LORD has abandoned me;
The Lord has forgotten me!”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or lack compassion for the child of her womb?
Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.
Look, I have inscribed (H2710)  you on the palms of My hands;
your walls are continually before Me.”

The apostle Paul exhorts us to put on the full armor of God (Eph 6:15).  When I gird my loins with the belt of truth, I remember to thank God for His love and that He will never leave me nor forsake me.  That helps me remember to abide in His love (John 15:9).

In our initial text, Isaiah uses the Hebrew root “Chaqaq,” meaning to inscribe or engrave.  I believe Isaiah is seeing prophetically into the future where Christ would have spikes driven into his hands as marks of His love for us.  Just a few chapters later, Isaiah would prophesy that he would be pierced for our transgressions (Isa 53:5).  The holes in his hands and wound in his side serve as everlasting reminders of His love for us.

Like Thomas in the gospel account of John, many of us doubt the love of God.  We need to have an experience in order to believe in God’s love for us.

John 20:26-28
26 After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace to you!”
27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.
28 Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

After Thomas’ experience, Thomas believes in God’s love for Him.  Like Thomas, we doubt the reality of God’s love for us, but the markers in His hands and His side are an everlasting reminder of God’s love.  He died for me in order to bring me home to the heart of God.

Behold the lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20, Rev 13:8).  In many charismatic circles, there is a preoccupation with the lion of the tribe of Judah.  However, there is only one reference to this lion in the book of Revelation.  Every other reference is to the lamb.  Why?  I believe the lion shows the lineage of Jesus, tying it back to the prophetic word given to Judah in Genesis 49.  The lamb used throughout the book of revelation demonstrates His personal love for me and for you.  In my opinion, That is the more important revelation with the most spiritual weight.

Our flesh wants the heroic lion to represent God; a strong, courageous, majestic king.  The God we need however is and will forevermore be a lamb.  Meek, humble, innocent.  Totally dependent.  Offered up as a sacrifice to take away the sins of the whole world.  All as an expression of His love.

I learned recently that the first occurrence of the word “love” (“ahav” in Hebrew) in the scriptures occurs in Genesis 22:2.  In this text, God is foreshadowing having to give up the only Son that he loves as a love offering. In this love test, Abraham prophetically says that God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice.  Love is revealed.

It is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The end-time plan of God has the lamb as the key symbol in God’s story and plan of redemption.

Revelation 5:6 (HCSB)
Then I saw One like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth.

Revelation 7:17 (HCSB)
For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Revelation 21:23 (HCSB)
The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb.

 

I believe the “slaughtered” description is reference to how Jesus died.  The book of Revelation shows us that even in the eternal plan of heaven, Christ’s markers will be a permanent memorial to us that “I love you.”

His side, feet, and hands were all pierced for our transgressions.  These are the everlasting markers of the lamb of God.  These are the markers of His love.

For God so loved the world…

Your heart in the presence of God (part 5 of 5)

 

Dreams are the language of symbols.  Looking at what symbols might mean in the context of scripture and its Hebraic roots, often reveals interesting insights.

As a recap from part 4, we have been looking at the ark of testimony and the things inside it.   First described in the book of Exodus, the book of Hebrews piques our interest in the ark and suggests that there is symbolic relevance.

Hebrews 9:3-5
3 Behind the second curtain, the tabernacle was called the most holy place.
4 It contained the gold altar of incense and the ark of the covenant, covered with gold on all sides, in which there was a gold jar containing the manna, Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.
5 The cherubim of glory were above it overshadowing the mercy seat. It is not possible to speak about these things in detail right now.

As I mentioned in the first of the series, I believe that the ark is a metaphor for your heart.

The ark along with your heart were created to bring glory to God and to be pure both inside and out.  The ark was coated with pure gold both inside and covering the ark.  Gold is a symbol representing purity and high value.

Your heart was created to be in the presence of God, 24×7, just like the ark.

The three items inside the ark were the pot of manna, Aaron’s rod, and the tablets of testimony.

In part 2, we established manna as a symbol for faith.
In part 3, we established the rod as a symbol for hope.
In part 4, we established the tablets as a symbol for love.

Faith, hope, and love are what is referred to be a “triad.”
There are a number of interesting triads in the new covenant.  In terms of dream symbols, the number three often represents the holy trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Yeshua said “I AM the way, the truth, and the life,” another triad.

I believe many things in the scriptures are intentional and that God knew what he was doing when he established numbers and details.  Yeshua said himself that not one jot or tittle would pass away until everything had been fulfilled.  The elements in the ark form a triad.  Are there other triads in the new covenant that we can connect with the triad in the ark?  I believe there are.

Not to get carried away with it, but there are some interesting symbols in the ancient Hebrew pictographs.  For example, the Hebrew pictograph for Father (“Ab” in Hebrew) is aleph-bet, symbolized by an ox head as a strong leader (aleph), and a house or dwelling place (bet).  The Father was to be a strong leader for His house.  “Coincidentally”, it also happens to be the first Hebrew word in the Strong’s concordance (#1).

אב

I was praying about which pictographs out of the 22 Hebrew letters would best represent faith, hope, and love, and here is what I believe I received.

1.  Faith is best represented by the cross (tav), as this is the truth that will set us free.  In the ancient Hebrew pictographs, the cross was a sign, mark, or memorial.

ת

The cross is a symbol of humility.  God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.  That is the truth connected to love and life.  It is the secret to every marriage and relationship.

2.  Hope is best represented by the seed (nun), as it correlates to offspring, heir, and sonship.

מ

This also matches very nicely to power and resurrection life. The promise of eternal life gives us hope.  Yeshua is known as the seed of Abraham, producing new life and many sons for its fruit (Rom 4, Gal 4).

3.  Love is best represented by the house (bet), as it represents belonging and being cared for as part of a family.

ב

Love is the way we are called to live our lives.  Love is what will impact others and is eternal.

 

Here are some pairings of triads which you might find interesting…

Faith  <-> Truth <-> Cross  <-> Son              <-> Manna
Hope  <-> Life    <-> Seed    <-> Holy Spirit <-> Rod
Love   <-> Way   <-> House <-> Father         <-> Tablets

See if the Holy Spirit leads you to other triads, i.e., righteousness, peace, and joy.  How do those words connect with the trinity?

It is these things in your heart which bring glory to God.  Faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.

To return to our original text in Hebrews, the scripture concludes that the old covenant is a shadow of the substance that is fulfilled in Christ.  In fact the thread of the text comes to these conclusions (Hebrews 10:19-24).

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh),
21 and since we have a great high priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.
23 Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works.

By believing, we have life in His name.  The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in you, if you have accepted His offer.  It is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  We are called to be like Christ who humbled himself for the sake of love.

To conclude, my encouragement to you is to spend time in the presence of God where your heart can find acceptance, hope, and your faith strengthened.  Every person is uniquely created.  As such, we experience God in different ways.  How can you creatively connect with the presence of God?  Take some time to rest in His presence, reflect, and be loved.  There, your heart will find life.