Ḥesed: Loyal Love

From deep within the underwater hotel of the fish’s belly, Jonah cried out to the LORD to save him after three days and three nights. Jonah (meaning “dove” in the original Hebrew) confessed that he was wrong to have not taken the message to the people of Nineveh as God had instructed and was now ready to make the journey to give God’s message to these brutal people. God was pleased and caused the giant fish to spit Jonah onto dry land and the message of urgency for repentance and turning from the evil practices they were engaging in to receive God’s forgiveness was in fact preached by Jonah—and received gladly and with gratitude by the Ninevites!

 

This story is familiar for a lot of us, but confusing for most of us. Why would God tell one of his prophets to go to a land where the people (of the Assyrian empire) were committing such wicked acts (e.g. chopping people’s head off and stacking them in pile, hanging people naked on poles, sodomizing pretty little boys and pretty little girls from conquered lands, etc.) when God stated that He was going to destroy them if they did not stop acting in such wicked ways and repent to God? The answer goes back to a Hebrew word; esed. According to Dr. Ron Allen of Dallas Theological Seminary, “Next to the actual name of God in the Bible, esed is the second most important word in all the Bible.”

 

Well, seeing as it is super important, allow us to define the term. esed as defined by Dr. Ron Allen is loyal love. The very things that God had revealed about Himself to Moses many years previous, were now the very things Jonah was struggling with as he had debated whether or not to deliver God’s message to the barbaric people of Nineveh. God described His own nature to Moses in Exodus 37:5-7 in three main ways:

  1. God is compassionate beyond imagination
  2. God is patient beyond expectation
  3. God is filled with grace and truth

 

It is because of God’s esed that anyone is able to be forgiven by God for all the wicked, crazy and shameful things that we do. It is because of God’s esed that John 3:16 is at play for any and all who call upon His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. It is because of God’s loyal love (ḥesed) that the people of Nineveh were told to turn from wickedness or God would destroy them; by stating destruction, God was displaying His ḥesed in the fact that He was delaying the punishment for sin by giving them the ability to repent to God and turn from their evil ways. It is because of the ḥesed of God that Jonah was shown mercy to be swallowed by a great fish, rather than simply drowning in the ocean after being thrown overboard by sailors for running away from God. The LOYAL LOVE (ḥesed) of God is all over the book of Jonah! And if we are honest, it is all over our own lives, too.

 

You see, the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all centered upon this beautiful fact: Jesus paid the price of death for you, for me and for any and all who would believe it through offering up His (literally) perfect and sinless life to die upon a Roman cross, to be buried in a tomb and to raise from the dead on the third day so that in exchange, we would receive what we do not deserve nor merit—the imputed righteousness of God (Romans 3:23). Now, does that mean that now I am perfect and I am so much better than everybody else? Nope. It means that I did not have a righteousness of my own (and am aware of my own deficiencies); only filthy rags of futile attempts to “be good enough” on my own is all I –or any human for that matter—can bring to the table when approaching God. What it does mean is that when God looks at me, He no longer sees my shame, my guilt and my rebellion—He sees the punishment that Jesus Christ took for me—paid with His own blood (Isaiah 53:5)—and I am seen as pure and clean before Almighty God (Psalm 51:7). Imputed righteousness means that I did not earn right standing before God, but by believing that I need someone to deal with my sin problem and that Jesus Christ did in fact die on a cross to pay from the rebellion of each person of every country and culture around the globe—including me—including you—(Romans 5:8, Romans 8:1-2, 1 John 4:9-10), each believing soul will in fact be saved (Romans 10:9-10).

 

9that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.11For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;13for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” -Romans 10:9-13 (NASB)

 

“ 8If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” -1 John 1:8-10 (NASB)

 

As we close our brief study on the gloriously eternal implications of the esed of God in the Holy Bible, may we savor and truly rejoice in the reality of God’s LOYAL LOVE, through Jesus Christ, offered freely to any and all who would choose to place their eternal hope and security in His hands as we read Romans 8:33-39:

 

“ 31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36Just as it is written,
            “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
            WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”

37But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:33-39 (NASB)

 

 

 

 

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VLOG: Christian Apologetics in light of Islam (part 2 of 5)

The Holy Spirit has laid it upon my heart to share of conversations over the past near decade with dear friends from the Islamic faith regarding Christian doctrine. In this five part series, we will explore why Jesus had to die, if there is really only one God, which apostles should we follow, what the Christian church believes regarding other creeds and how does one decide what is right and what is ultimately wrong. May the Lord Jesus Christ be glorified and draw hearts to Himself for He alone is worthy.

Christmas Tea: Middle Eastern Style

Ladies, there is SO much to celebrate at Christmas!!! We have had the divine privilege from Jesus Christ to meet many Muslims who are SEEKING to know God…and very curious to learn more about a GOD OF LOVE…who speaks!!!

 

Praise the Lord! We had the privilege recently of going to the home of new Muslim friends who wanted to know who we said Jesus was and were able to speak of the trinity. We spoke of how a woman can be a daughter, a wife and a mother all at the same time…but still only be one person. The young woman seemed amazed by the explanation…and she was very open to hear more!

 

These precious people thought that protestant Christians worshipped and prayed to multiple things, but were very intrigued to hear that we serve and worship only one God. May the LORD BE PRAISED!!!

 

The Lord has stirred my heart to host a Christmas tea this year and invite these new friends to enjoy the Christmas season with us. I offered last night and was amazed by their quick response of “we would love to!”

 

Ladies, in this Christmas season may we remember that SO MANY ARE HUNGRY to learn more of the true reason for the Christmas season. Most of the time, such people just need someone to start the conversation! Praise the Lord Jesus for the excitement of Christmas…LOVE FOR ALL PEOPLE WORLDWIDE WAS GIVEN A NAME…JESUS THE CHRIST.

 

Below are five questions that commonly come up between Christians and Muslims. May you also, if the Lord prompts your hearts, host a Christmas Tea for those of other faiths to sip and consider a Savior whom they have never met. What a joyous and exciting time of year! May the Lord Jesus be praised! And if you do not know someone of another faith to share a warm cup of tea with, spend some time praying for the unreached people and lost of this world…over your own cup of Christmas tea!

 

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3-4 (NASB)

 

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  1. Do I (as a Christian) believe that Jesus had to die to satisfy God?

 

My response, absolutely yes. Jesus was not simply a prophet, but the Holy Bible records that He was born of a Virgin (as does the Qur’an) and that He lived a sinless life (I believe as the Qur’an does as well). And that Jesus died upon the cross (as the Qur’an states three different times Qur’an 3:55, Qur’an 4:157 and Qur’an 19:33).

 

From the conviction of my soul, Jesus is not simply a prophet of God…but the top prophet, great high priest and God incarnate.

 

I wholeheartedly believe that God is holy and totally set apart from all wrong. And as a result, God cannot be near the weakness of rebellion against Him. The Holy Bible speaks of the rebellion of Luciphor, one of the top angels in heaven, who wanted to be like God and led a rebellion against God in heaven. As a result, this angel and 1/3 of the angels in heaven were kicked out of heaven for treason. This fallen angel became known as Satan.

 

We then see this same line of thought in the Garden of Eden…when Satan, in the form of a snake, convinced Eve that she should not trust God and that better awaited her by disobeying God and eating from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As a result, both Eve and her husband Adam disobeyed God by believing the lie of Satan that God was holding out goodness from them. And as a result of this, they too were kicked out of the perfect place called Eden…where they enjoyed perfect fellowship with God…and daily walked in the garden with God.

 

But, that is the beauty of Christmas! The great love of God was manifested that while humanity was still in the midst o rebellion, God launched the greatest and far reaching rescue plan to save His creation through sending Himself in the form of a human. This is a season of great joy as recorded in the Holy Bible book of Luke chapter 2. An angel of God announced the birth of “Christ the Lord” in the “city of David” to a group of shepherds. They went to see the birth of the One prophesied about…that is Jesus.

 

We have all made mistakes in our lives and are seen as imperfect before God. We cannot pray enough, do enough good for others or even travel to sacred places to make up for our wrong doings. Just as Eid calls for a blood sacrifice, God calls for a blood sacrifice to atone for each of our wrong doings…that is why Jesus came. As God in the flesh, Jesus was then able to satisfy His own standard and rule of perfection and holiness by paying the penalty for each one of us (each person in all of human history) who have committed rebellion against God–whether by saying something, thinking something or doing something that brought shame to God. What a truly loving God to take my punishment…when I deserve it!

 

See, if God didn’t keep His standards of perfection…then God would not be holy or righteous. If God did not make a way for us to draw near to God, then God would not be loving. But, praise be to God that He stepped down from His eternal throne to put His love for all humanity on display…through sending Jesus to pay the penalty that not one of us could Stand up under. And now, as I have seen the goodness and holiness of God (as Isaiah experienced in his vision of God), I came to realize my great and pressing need to be washed clean of my wrong doings…and only God Himself could wash me. And so, through faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God, I have been forgiven of all my wrongdoings and my heart has been washed in His blood through faith…to declare before heaven, earth and under the earth that there is One name in all of existence that humanity can be saved…and thy name is Jesus Christ, who took my guilt, my shame and my wrong doings and took my punishment…and in return Jesus gave me His grace, His mercy and His righteousness. Jesus had the authority to lay down His life…no one took it from Him…and with that same authority, on the third day of being in the tomb…HE RAISED FROM THE DEAD…conquering death and assuring right standing before God for all who trust in Him alone.

 

  1. Do I really believe (as a Christian) that my God is not one, but three?

 

My response…there is only one God. God has three functions, which play three very distinct roles. Much like the sun plays three distinct roles: Heat, light and radiation. You do not need to wear sunglasses because of heat…we wear sunglasses because of the sun’s light. Much in the same way, we do not wear sun block due to the light of the sun, but the radiation. Yet all three things come from one sun.

 

In the same way, God has three distinct functions: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God the Father resides in heaven. God the Son, Jesus, came to earth to drawn humanity back to God through taking the punishment for our sins. And eternal life is freely offered to all who call upon the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is who comes to reside inside our souls once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

 

God is perfect and the Qur’an speaks clearly on the authenticity of the Holy Bible. Qur’an 3:3-4 and Qur’an 10:94

 

As a Christian, I worship the One true God…who loves all people from all countries and desires that not one should have to suffer with Satan for rebellion against God.

 

Another example of this would be the one sharing tea with you. They are a child of their parents, a friend to you and an employee at their work place…but the individual is still only one person.

 

 

  1. Which apostle should we follow as Christians?

 

My response…none of them. I follow the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

The apostle of Jesus by the name of John records in his book John (within the Holy Bible)…John 1:1…in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

 

 

This matters because even the apostles and closest followers of Jesus did not claim to be God, but always rightfully elevated Jesus as God.

 

Jesus Himself said that if you have seen Me then you have seen the Father in heaven (John 14:9). I do believe that the Holy Bible is the last and completed work of God…made complete by the actual coming of Himself in the flesh. And when Jesus hung upon the cross at Calvary, also known as Golgotha (both mean the “place of the skull”), He cried out “it is finished” (John 19:30). The anger of God for the rebellion of all humanity had been satisfied through the death and shed blood of Jesus Christ. And now, all who choose to put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior can also experience that same peace with joy…that’s same joy that bubbles from deep within the soul…and everlasting hope that the best is ALWAYs still to come as we will one day be together with Jesus in heaven. And the assurance of our forgiveness of sin because we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead (1 John 1:9-10).

 

 

  1. What does the Christian church believe about other churches that practice other creeds?

 

My personal conviction is that all of the prophesies of the Torah (also called the Pentateuch) as well as the Psalms and other prophesies within the Bible all pointed to the coming of One from the House and Line of King David who would redeem NOT ONLY the Jewish people, but ALL people.

 

John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life.”

 

Qur’an 3:3-4 says that God sent the Torah (Old Testament), the Injeel (the New Testament) and the Light (Jesus is called the “Light of God” in the Qur’an)…”and those who do not believe in them have gone astray.”

 

Qur’an 10:94 says that God told Muhammad, if you are in doubt, speak to the “People of the Book”…this was reference to only the Jews (in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible) and the Christians (referenced in the Nee Testament of the Holy Bible). Muslims were not called “people of the book until Mohammad’s death…when the Qur’an was compiled.

 

Therefore, since the Qur’an tells those who follow Islam to believe the Holy Bible (“The People of the Book”), it is assumed then that Muslims should listen to the law spoken of in the Holy Bible. The law was completed through Jesus Christ. So, the idea that Jesus did not “die” according to one phrase in the Qur’an does not make logical sense.

 

 

  1. How does one decide on which principles are right and worthy of following?

 

What a beautifully honest question! The Bible teaches that God desires that no one should suffer, but that while we were still rebelling against God, Jesus Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

 

The reality is, we could not do enough…of anything…to become right with God.

 

In Islam, you believe in sin…and agree that we have been stained by impure things. As a result, things must be said, thought and done to balance the scales and make the good weigh more. But, as a Christian, I realize…ONLY BE GOD’s GRACE do I realize this…that I cannot do enough, think enough or even say enough to gain right standing before the One and Only Righteous and Holy God–the Creator of All things. It is by admitting that I cannot make it on my own and accepting God’s FREE GIFT of rescue through Jesus Christ that I am CLEAN. Praise the Lord.

 

I believe that the desire for peace, joy, and eternity is placed within the hearts of all humanity as the Bible declares (Ecclesiastes 3:11). And because of this, we seek to find if there is something or someone greater than humanity. And if we are honest with ourselves…as we watch the sunset each night, hear the birds call to one another, feel the warmth of the sun and the gentle breeze from our roof tops…something in us stirs…there must be someone who created this all…this simply cannot be by chance. There is too much order in the natural world for this to have all just “happened”.

 

And that is exactly what the Bible teaches. That even if we do not worship God through declaring that Jesus is the Messiah, the very rocks will.

 

“As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” Luke 19:37-40

 

Because God loves us, He made a way for us to find Him. He uses the created world to point out His goodness and creativity. He uses love to show us how much we are cherished by Him. He uses dreams and visions, to speak to the heart to assure those seeking that He desires to be found. And He confirms the longing in our hearts to be right and declared as clean before God by making a way for all this to be possible through the birth, death and raising from the dead of Jesus Christ the Savior for all who believe.

 

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May we see Christmas through the eyes of evangelism for the GOOD NEWS OF HOPE AND NEW BEGINNINGS THROUGH FAITH AND TRUST IN JESUS CHRIST THE LORD!

 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB)