Dear Lovers of God and People!
During the December holidays the Lord kept bringing one word to my heart and mind: simplicity. I had been thanking Him for the blessing of our celebration of Hanukkah: two storage boxes under the guest room bed, less than one hour to decorate the condo, and even less to put decorations away. One little gift for each other on the first night of Hanukkah, then celebrating with/for others during the eight days. No stress. (Even though we still sent eight numbered gifts to both Jonathan and Nancy, as has been our custom since the boys were little. Jesse was in the process of moving to San Francisco, so he asked for one thing instead of eight!)
What is simplicity? The dictionary defines it as the quality or condition of being easy to understand or do. Simplicity is also the quality or condition of being plain or natural. Uncomplicated. The first verse that came to my mind was 2 Corinthians 11:3, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Messiah (Christ).” Rabbi Saul (Paul) is expressing his concern that those whom he had “betrothed to one husband,” Yeshua, might fall prey to those who preach “another Jesus,” or receive “a different spirit or a different gospel.”
Deception. A sign of the end times. Our enemy would like to complicate the simple Gospel Message. Add to it. Twist it. What is the simplicity in Yeshua, the Messiah? We think that it is coming to God as little children, believing with childlike faith that a Good God gave His only Son to die for our sins. When we repent, ask His forgiveness, and invite Him into our lives, He comes in by His Spirit. His Spirit then empowers us to live a life pleasing to the Lord. We are new creations who have entered into the kingdom of God. Yeshua said the following, “… Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).
When I texted my Mennonite friend Martha my idea for this newsletter, she texted me back: “Simplicity. I love the word. The believers in the jungles of Belize taught me that. They didn’t try to believe; they just believed. They didn’t try to have faith; they just had faith. They didn’t try to trust; they just trusted. That’s simplicity. I want that.” We want that too! How about you?
Once we enter into the simplicity of the Gospel of Messiah, our lives should reflect that quality. Acts 2:46-47 speaks of simplicity of heart: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” It seems to us that the simplicity of heart spoken of here involves true fellowship in the Lord, which boils down to two simple, yet profound, actions: loving God and loving people. The early believers loved God and each other. They also loved the lost, given the favor that they had with “all the people.”
The entire Law, all 613 commandments or mitzvot, can be summed up in the two most important commandments, found in Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6:5: Ve’ahavta et Adonai elohecha b’chol le’vavcha oo’b’chol naf-shecha oo’b’chol me’odecha, v’ahavta la’reicha kamocha (…and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself). Yeshua affirmed the primacy of these commandments when challenged by a Torah lawyer in Luke 10:25.
When our country stops to focus on “love” this month (February 14), we, Yeshua’s bride, must narrow our focus: Love the Lover of our souls, and love the souls created in His image (that includes everybody!). God’s kind of love is uncomplicated, but our grown-up minds wrestle with its simplicity, mainly because our flesh does not die easily. We are referring to “unconditional love.” Children display it. So do pets. And of course, Yeshua. He loves us unconditionally. We can’t do anything to make Him stop loving us! That is the simple truth.
Living in Simplicity
Life in the USA in 2015 can be very complicated. Referrals from doctors. Computer mishaps. Identity theft. Weddings. What about TV remotes and listings. In our home, Neil handles the remotes because I find them too frustrating. I would rather not watch television than have to navigate cable listings and systems. We need to seriously consider 2 Corinthians 1:12, “For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.”
Can we live in simplicity and godly sincerity in 2015? Can we live according to godly rather than fleshly wisdom? Yes, by the grace of God. We choose the “wisdom from above,” which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). Simple and sincere. Let this be our goal.
Our society, especially the media, consistently tries to convince us that we need more—and better. More gadgets. A bigger TV. Very complicated health and beauty routines. A faster car. One of the happiest days of Neil’s life was when we moved into our condo apartment, with no outside storage of any kind. We brought with us only what would fit. Years ago, it was a struggle to get Neil to buy more shirts to wear on our TV program. He thought the red plaid shirt was enough! (Gotta love my non-consumer husband!) His motto has always been, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” (Heb. 13:5) A simple truth: Yeshua is enough!
One Line, One Word
While meditating on the concept of simplicity during the holiday season, our daughter-in-law Nancy happened to mention to us that she had ordered a book for herself: One Line a Day, a five year memory book. She said that it was a type of journal in which you just write down one thought or insight each day, simplifying the more usual concept of journaling, which includes more words and more time. Interesting concept, we thought.
Within the week, an e-mail appeared on my phone explaining a program called: My One Word. The Holy Spirit seemed to be developing a theme, so I followed His lead by ordering the book My One Word, Change Your Life With Just One Word. I knew at once that we would like the simplicity of this concept. We strongly suggest that you order a copy for yourself as we begin another year. (See mail back.). This One Word concept can be life-changing!
It all began in January of 2007 at Port City Community Church in Wilmington, North Carolina. The pastor, Mike Ashcraft, challenged his congregants to forget New Year’s resolutions, and instead pick one word to focus on that year. This would be their way of approaching personal change and spiritual growth. My One Word quickly became a movement of God, with wonderful testimonies following. This simple practice has proved to be very powerful, year after year. The Holy Spirit places a word in the believer’s heart. This word then becomes the lens through which you examine your heart and life for an entire year. The one word forces a narrowed focus, and positions the believer for God to do a deeper work in his or her heart. The stories in the book are inspiring, as the authors explain why a specific word was chosen and what transpired in lives as a result of their choice. There have been many, many transformed hearts in the eight years since the program began.
Undergirding the My One Word program is faith in God—that He will accomplish in us and for us what we can’t do ourselves. “… Your chosen word will help you get in a specific position and remain there long enough—dependent on God—for some internal work to be done by Him. Work that only He can do.”
You choose your “one-word” with the vision of the type of person you want to become this year. Godly character formation is the goal. The top 10 most-often-picked words are: 1) trust, 2) patience, 3) love, 4) discipline, 5) focus, 6) faith, 7) surrender, 8) peace, 9) listen, and 10) joy. You can find the words chosen by over 5000 people at myoneword.org.
After reading the book, I decided to choose a word for 2015. It was not the first word that popped into my mind, but the second one. “Presence.” I want to be aware—at all times—in all situations—of God’s presence. We have a little plaque in our bedroom that says, “Where you are, God is!” I know the truth of that statement, but often find myself drifting into the natural world, unaware of God being with me, wanting to speak to me, or use me for His purposes. I want to be a person who pleases God by being more God-focused, in everyday moments of life. After all, He is in us by His Spirit. I guess I am going to unleash, in a sense, the Spirit within. The verse I chose to go with my word “Presence” is Acts 17:28, “… For in Him we live and move and have our being.”
Other interesting words that people have chosen include integrity, boldness, pause, knowledge, motion, and stand. A word may be chosen to help address an area of weakness, or maximize an area of strength, or to help direct our heart to God. We like the simplicity of focusing on one thing that we want the Lord to do in our lives. (I really feel that “simplify” is a word for someone reading this!)
Pastor Ashcraft explains that once your word is chosen, you pray and ask God to use this word in whatever way He wishes in your life. Research the word in the Scriptures, and allow God to expand, redefine, and move in your life, taking you places you never dreamed of. To quote Pastor Ashcraft: “When you begin seeing your world through the lens of your one word, opportunities for action and growth abound.” Interested? Order the book. It’s a quick, edifying read.
One Word – To a Stranger
Sometimes we can speak one word and touch a life. This happened to me before Hanukkah, 2014 as I was on the line at Bealls Outlet. The line was long. People were getting impatient. I was behind a cute little lady in her late 80’s or early 90’s. No one was talking. I said to the little lady (without realizing that the Holy Spirit was prompting me), “I guess we all need more patience. What do you think?” She agreed and made a comment which led me to focus on her very pronounced non-English accent. I told her that I liked her accent, and asked where she was from. Czechoslovakia. “Oh, I said, I have a neighbor from Czechoslovakia about your age. Her name is Hedi.” “Do you mean Hedi of Hedi and Hymie,” she asked. “Yes, I said.” Well—Hedi is her dear friend, and both are Holocaust survivors. I invited Pechu, who lives alone, to our Hanukkah party so that she could be with her friend Hedi. By the time we reached the cash register, Pechu hugged me and said, “I love you already!” She told me to get her telephone number from Hedi.
Long story short. Pechu came. Hedi and Hymie came. So did seven other elderly Jewish pre-believers. We had quite a party! Jamie Ellen, who sings at the end of our Jewish Jewels television program, sang Hanukkah songs, as well as traditional Hebrew and Yiddish songs, and popular showtunes. Neil told the story of Hanukkah. I played the piano. Our guests were so appreciative, and eager to learn, that we now feel led to begin a Bible study in our home for “Senior Seekers.” By the way, two other seniors at the party were strangers whom I met at the grocery store. The word that drew us together was “lightbulb.” Only God! All present at our home that evening agreed that one Yiddish word summed up our gathering: bashert (bah-SHAIRT) which means, “It was meant to be!” Try using that one with your Jewish friends. They will love it!
You and Yeshua in 2015
One of the reasons we like the My One Word concept is the underlying, “Lord Change Me,” aspect. Focusing on one area of our lives also engages us with God in a specific way, and propels us into a more prayerful approach to life. We all need to have increased communion with the Creator, to continually ask Him to strengthen and help us—to change us from the inside out. Oh, how He loves to hear from us! We were created for two-way communication with our God. He desires words from us. The Bridegroom says to His bride in Shir HaShirim, “Let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely” (Song 2:14).
Neil came home from Jewish Jewels one day last month and found me in tears. I kept saying, “I’m so sorry, Lord.” When he asked what the matter was, I explained, “God’s children aren’t talking with Him enough. He wants to hear from them because He loves them so much. He feels like it’s a burden for us to even send Him a text!” (You get the idea—) Many of us, Neil and Jamie included, are stingy with God. He deserves so much more. God bless all you intercessors who please the heart of God by speaking with Him so frequently. You delight His heart! May the rest of us, type A’s, Martha types, follow your example and PRAY—COMMUNE with our Father in Heaven every day in 2015.
A Word Change in Israel
When we spoke recently with Hannah Ben Haim, our Israeli tour guide, she mentioned that those pilgrims who have come to the Land in recent months have altered the way she sees visitors to Israel. The word “solidarity” has replaced the word “tourism.” Those who come up to Zion now, including our Mercy Mission 2015 group, are staunch supporters of Israel, and lovers of both the Land and the People. They come up to stand with Israel at her time of great need. That is what our Mercy Missions have been about since the year 2000.
As we do every year, we encourage you to pray for us while we are ministering in God’s Land. Talk with God about us! Include us in your One Word! We will be ministering in a hospital to wounded soldiers on March 3, at an orphanage on March 4, at a baby shower, and with victims of terror on March 5, at a school for Autistic children on March 6, at an IDF base on March 8, and at a children’s cancer ward on March 11. Other missions will “appear” as you pray. They always do! Thanks so much for going with us in the spirit. Please send in whatever you can for the “Love Baskets” that we distribute. The needs are great.
God’s Love and Ours,
P.S. Neil’s word for 2015 is practice.