Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bibles and Black Shoes...You Can Never Have Too Many

Having one bible is never enough; not for me anyway. There are different translations, covers, titles, stories, red letter versions, devotions, concordances, reading plans, study or not study; the list is endless….and I couldn’t be happier.

Though some may wonder…. “Isn’t having one enough, since a bible is a bible and they’re all the same?” There are still others of us that could get a new bible each week and find something fabulous and new in each one; being quick to share the differences with anyone that asks.
I like to use the reasoning that women through the ages have used with their husbands to justify the number of black shoes that live in their walk-in closets. “Yes, I do already own a pair of black shoes; maybe even a dozen, but they all have a purpose and should be treated with the utmost respect.” Okay…perhaps respect is the wrong word in this scenario but each does have a story to tell and holds a place in her heart; even if it is merely to be the perfect shoe worn with her favorite outfit. You have your most comfortable black ballerina flats or another pair with just enough heel to keep those jeans from dragging the pavement. Then there are the boots that go from day to night with just the change of a top and the far from reasonable pumps worm maybe once a year that are high on a shelf in a shoebox waiting patiently to make their appearance.
Bibles are more than 66 books in one to me. It is God’s love letter to us. It is a history book; our history. It is a book that can be picked up at any time, opened to any page and make complete sense. I have an ESV study bible that was picked out by my mommy; a family bible of sorts. No it wasn’t handed down from generation to generation but each member of my family; mom, dad, sisters and their families own the same one. We each have different covers but my mom and dad were like spokespersons for this bible and sold each of us on it quickly and easily. My burgundy leather cover opens up to vellum pages that my pink book index tabs are attached to. Each “chapter” gives a synopsis of what the book is about; who wrote it and when, the theme, and the purpose, occasion, and background; key themes, literary features, and an outline. There are shaded areas that have further explanation below each verse, and maps for further clarification. It even has an online study feature that reads scripture to me as I complete one bible study or another; looking for answers. This bible is my “leave at home, always wide open, online-at-the-ready, truly studying and digging deeper” bible. Because of the weight, thickness, and fragility of the pages it is the only one of my bibles that does not continually get a change of “clothes” and is dragged with me to one class, study, or event but constantly within arm’s reach when sewing or writing in my ministry. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving and my first “real” bible that sparked the interest and “hobby” of adding to my collection; each having their own place “in my heart” but not taken “out” as often just as those special occasion, less than practical pumps in the top of my closet. (Not taken out but definitely much more accessible than those shoes).
 I also have several NIV translations, but just like my collection of black shoes; they all have their own specific purpose. Two of them are Women’s Devotionals but each with different stories and formats that make them specifically unique as well. These are my favorite bibles; both for the translations as well as what they offer inside (aside from the obvious). I love to read the excerpts that are just a page; a story that bring the bible to present life, full of scripture that further illustrates the similarities of today and thousands of years ago. These stories are written by normal everyday women and in one of the bibles always ends with “Women of Destiny……” and a one liner to walk away with. This obviously is my Women of Destiny bible. My other devotional bible also offers a one page story but in the margin has thought provoking questions and additional scriptures to read for diving into the topic further (love that part). My Celebrate Recovery bible is another NIV and my first hardcover (which I have decided I like better….for no specific reason). I love that this one was given to me by mom and the only one that boasts a dedication and signature from her too; a date and personal scripture; “Jesus said to her “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34  As an extra gift, the publishers included a scripture of their own that I loooove too; “He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (No surprise that this was spoken/written by Paul whom I didn’t know or follow when I received this gift but one whom I have come to have a secret crush on and, next to Jesus, follow him anywhere). This Celebrate Recovery edition was written specifically for the program started at Saddleback Church in California by pastors Rick Warren and John Baker. It is based on the Beatitudes and “the goal is not simply to recover from past sins and hurts. The goal is to become Christlike in our character.” What’s not to love about that piece of Foreword from Rick Warren? This bible isn’t just about recovery for drug addicts and alcoholics but people whose lives seem out of control. “He knows where we came from, where we stand today, and where we’re going to be tomorrow. And he says: 

-  If you’ve been hurt, “I want to heal you.”
-  If you’re confused, “I want to lead you.”
- If you’ve ever felt helpless to change anything, “I want to help you.”
If you feel worried or afraid, “I want to offer peace to you.”
Isaiah 57:18-19
My NIV translations are my fave, always looked for black shoes; the three or four pair that are reached for every day, that go with anything and are comfortable and always fashionable. These bibles are the ones that are constantly being recovered in my newest style bible covers I make and the scriptures attached always reflect my current “season.” I can’t fathom how many different “outfits” I have for these but between covers and scripture sleeves, I am able to change quickly to match what I may be wearing that day. Love it.
My good friend Lynnette was blessed enough to get out and “bible shop” yesterday. She invited me along and I was so excited to be a part of it but something came up to keep me homebound instead…so I lived vicariously through her. She got to go alone; no hubby or kids. She was able to spend an entire hour in the local Family Christian Bookstore and take her time to pick out the “Bible of her current season.” Listening to her recount her hour long adventure was like being there and to anyone hearing our conversation, I can imagine them wondering what could be so exciting about picking out a book. I love that she got as excited telling me about her exploits as I was to hear them. She found one and then another; amassing a collection of four or five to choose from…various translations and styles but all geared towards women (we happen to share that season right now and I love that too). She opened each one carefully, feeling the weight of the pages, reading introductions and concordances, reading plans and writing style of devotions. She found a spot to sit quietly and pray for guidance… “Is it this one Jesus? Is this the bible for this season?” And, just like walking out of a shoe store with a new pair of black shoes; having the feeling that you “know” you got the right ones with no second thoughts…she found the bible in a new translation, perfect for her season…not knowing how long it will last but knowing that this bible will be THE one to get her through it no matter the length.
 Her afternoon of “bible perusing” made me want to run out and replace the Women of Faith NIV Study Bible that was lost in shipment from California to Michigan. I had to ship home many items I had collected while away for six months; a box weighing 34 pounds and filled to the rim with books and a handmade quilted tote I received from Lynnette for my birthday was among them. The box arrived in perfect condition but weighing just 2 pounds and carrying my precious tote but NONE of my precious books. But apparently these books and tote were not precious enough to purchase a very inexpensive insurance and the USPS is apologetic but not refunding the shipping charge or doing much to find any one of the 15 books that were also inside; two bibles and countless titles ALL relating to Jesus, God, Christ, or Girlfriends. <wink>
Needless to say, the books will be replaced and the bibles when re-purchased will be re-indexed with pink bible tabs (the preferred color of choice) and re-highlighted and re-postited (um…I like colored post-its throughout too). But according to mom I can use this for an opportunity to replace with a new bible from my current season and I already look forward to making my own trip to the Christian bookstore to select my own “new” bible; sure to make a stop at Starbucks before settling in for a while to make more than a purchase of a new bible…but, like Lynnette, make an experience out of it. She took Jesus to the store with her that day and just like a perfect husband would sit beside me in the chair at the shoe store and tell me all of the black shoes I try on are fabulous and understand my need for “just one more pair” – Jesus was with her…telling her that all of the bibles were good but it was up to her to make the decision; Him merely offering his advice on one over another based on the questions she asked him. “Do you think this one fits me best right now?” “Is this one “my color” for the path you have me going on this season?”
Yes… I love my black shoes but give me a choice at shoe shopping or spending an hour with Jesus picking out a new bible and there is no hesitation. It just means we get to stop for Starbucks on the way in addition to our normal coffee time at home – “Yes, please.”

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Circle of Friends; Center of Attention (Episode 2 of 2)

In our first episode we saw how a Circle of Friends is supposed to work, however, in my efforts to be as transparent as possible, I felt it only fair to show how my Circle of Friends operated in my PJ era…(Pre-Jesus).

After finding Jesus I knew that I never had real friends before; not to anyone’s fault but my own but it wasn’t something I thought I missed. The friends I had were only defined by 1s and 2s and how I could be benefitted from those relationships.

As you recall the 1s in our “Circle of Friends” are strangers; “these are the people we may never see again. Our lives intersect only for an instant. We don’t know them and they don’t know us. We may never know the impact we have on their life, but there is the potential to change them forever. We may be the only Christ this person ever sees. This stranger may never set foot in a church and we must represent Him well.”

The 2s in our “Circle of Friends” represented acquaintances. “These are people that we happen to know from various places. Perhaps we sit near them at church, or we see them when we check in at the dentist office. We may know their faces and names, but we don’t share any personal information. We usually see these people by coincidence, not because we plan to see them.”
Circle of Friends

In my PJ era circle; no further numbers are required because the next set of numbers began the sharing phase and let’s face it…I didn’t share too many personal facts with anyone. Mind you; I said “facts”. Let me explain.

The PJ era was very one-sided; constantly asking the question “How will this benefit me?” Needless to say….it wasn’t a mentality I am proud of yet it is exactly how my life was lived. I didn’t complain of course because it was always “All about me.” I am shocked that my ex-husband and daughters put up with me as long as they did because it couldn’t have been easy to be around me as selfish as I was.

Center of Attention

In my “Center of Attention” circle I was, as the name describes….the center of attention. Unlike my current circle of friends, the one thing everyone had in common was me.

1s were still strangers but 2s were everybody else; even my own family. There was plenty of room for a relationship with Jesus and more meaningful relationships with others, but there was no desire. Any numbers closer to me meant opening up and disclosing truths and feelings I was unwilling to share.

Let’s call the purple dot, coworkers. Where I was perfectly at home and personable at work; I was not sharing personal information…unless it was something that made me look better. “Hey, I’m doing a breast cancer walk”….which would purely be to prove I was doing something charitable and, oh yeah, “Would you like to sponsor me?” I didn’t accept invitations to lunch or offers to attend Happy Hours after work on Fridays. I wasn’t interested in stepping outside of my comfort zone or doing anything that was going to benefit them or try to facilitate any kind of real friendship.

The red dot could represent one pub, the green another, and the yellow…yet another. At each location I had the ability to wear different masks; no one knowing what was under the mask or if one of them was really me…including myself. When I stopped living the party lifestyle I wondered who I really was without the overindulgence of alcohol; would I even be fun? I was used to being the life of the party, the center of attention, the person that walked in and the party stopped…only to restart again with me being the ringleader. Why would I ever want to share personal information with anyone and give up the mysterious persona I was able to recreate every weekend?

My light blue dot represented my family. I strayed further and further from them and had no intentions of trying to mend any relationships or build new ones. My mom knew what I wanted her to know IF I decided to call her. I rarely spoke to my dad unless it was a holiday or mom said “Hang on a second; I know your dad would like to talk to you.” I wasn’t sharing any personal information with her, good or bad, and really just counted the minutes until I got to hang up and then looked at a calendar to see if any “must call home” holidays were fast approaching.

I would shy away from many, lie to most, and mislead them all if given the opportunity. If someone said something I didn’t like, I could easily move on and decide to find a new group of “friends;” where I got to start all over again; reinventing myself to be whatever I wanted or whoever I thought they would like.

It was a sad existence but not one I complained about because I didn’t realize how sad it was until I finally accepted the one true friendship that could turn my life around; the one where Jesus was my BFF. He was like a friend that shows up at your house everyday with a new present; some days it would be a scripture He thought I would like or a song that would be my new favorite for a few days; blaring through my surround sound. Other days the present would be a new friend he brought into my life through a bible study or sitting beside in a church the size of the Grand Ole Opry. The greatest gifts He has given me were the gift of grace, the renewed relationships with my family, and my husband that grows more and more each day in his own relationship with Him.

There is a saying: “You don’t know what ya got ‘til it’s gone.” But in my case, I didn’t realize what I was missing until I was given it ten times over by Jesus. I had no idea all that was available to me in friendships until He continued putting people in my path; people that I never thought I would be friends with and are now my very best friends; my 3s, 4s, and 5s…. all of us having at least one thing in common; a relationship with Jesus. Individually we are all different; some work where others are stay-at-home moms or housewives, some have small children while others of us are empty nesters, some are married where others are divorced or single and looking. But we all have Jesus in the center of our circle. We appreciate what we have in each other and look forward to sharing what He has rescued us from or share in faith all He is doing now.

I no longer worry about people meeting each other for fear of them comparing stories I may have told; all of them are the same. I don’t have to try and remember which mask I wore to which location because Jesus has shown me I don’t need a mask when He is in my heart. I am thrilled to have many rings in my Circle of Friends and love the closeness and purpose for them all. Putting Jesus at the center of all of my activities has been the answer to everything I needed help in solving and the gift of friendships that He blesses me with everyday is one I welcome and look forward to sharing.

Circle of Friends; Coffee with Lynnette and Jesus (Episode 1 of 2)

This is what happens when two Lylas get together to discuss friendship; specifically as it relates to each other and generally as it relates to all those we have known and have yet to know; sitting around a dining room table with devotionals, books about friendship in Him, our bibles, coffee, and Jesus taking the third of four seats.

Thank you Lynnette for being my Number 5.  =D

* * * * * * * * * * * 

We all have a circle of friends. Some have been around a life time, others have been around for what seems like minutes. C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather is one of those things that give value to survival." Friends are not necessary for living, but they make living so much sweeter. Our friends, enrich our lives, they pick us up when we are down and they expect the best from us.

Jesus had a circle of friends. He is a great teacher and we can learn from his friendships.

Within our circle of friends, at level 1, these are the strangers. These are the people we may never see again. Our lives intersect only for an instant. We don’t know them and they don’t know us. We may never know the impact we have on their life, but there is the potential to change them forever. We may be the only Christ this person ever sees. This stranger may never set foot in a church and we must represent Him well.

Jesus impacted many strangers.

Luke 6:6-11 On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.
Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”
He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
Jesus always represented His Father well. He did the right thing, even at his own expense.
Within the Friendship Circle, at Level 2, we have acquaintances. These are people that we happen to know from various places. Perhaps we sit near them at church, or we see them when we check in at the dentist office. We may know their faces and names, but we don’t share any personal information.We usually see these people by coincidence, not because we plan to see them.
There were people who had heard about Jesus and his ability to heal.
John 4:43-54  After the two days he left for Galilee. (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there.
 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 
“Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”

This royal official didn’t want to know Jesus, he only wanted what Jesus could do for him.

In our circle, Level 1 and 2 are in the Comfort Zone. There is nothing scary about Level 1 and 2 friends. We never actually have to give anything of ourselves to these friends. The relationships are superficial at best.

At Level 3, we move into the Sharing Zone. Within this zone, there is give and take in the relationships. In order to move to level 3, we have to begin sharing and giving ourselves.
Level 3, is our Peers. These are the people we see on a regular basis. We often have something in common with these people, maybe working in the same office, maybe our kids play on the same team. We have a bond with these people and we see them more often because of our common work, activities or lifestyles, not because of a specific plan to meet.
There were people who had religion in common with Jesus.
Luke 2: 41-47 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.

The people in the courts were beginning to know Jesus. They shared a common interest that gave them a peek into one another’s lives.

Level 4, are friends. These are people who we know and care about. This group may consist of parents, siblings, Bible study or small group members. There is sincere sharing of ourselves and our stories, but not complete exposure of our true selves.
Jesus had the disciples, but He also had Mary, Martha and Lazarus, whom he considered friends.
John 11: 1-5 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

Jesus had a history with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. He loved them. They probably prayed together and we know from scripture they ate together. But they probably were not aware of Jesus’ true inner feelings and his plans.

Finally, we get to Level 5, our Companions. These are the few people who know all about us and love us anyway. They accept us in spite of our failures. They call us out privately and say, “I’m still on your side, but that wasn’t the best choice”. They love us enough to ask the tough questions, to keep us honest and encourage us to keep trying. They never give up on us. They cry with us. They lift us up. They hear us. They are the ones who will lay down their lives, and put things on hold, when we need them most. But, we have to be willing to do the same for them.

Jesus was surrounded by people, but there were three he chose as His companions.

Matthew 26:36-46 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (James and John) along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

There is so much we can learn about a Circle of Friends from this story. First, Jesus asked his Companions for help. He knew what was coming. He needed his closest friends to keep watch and pray with him. It is not easy to ask for help, but being truthful about our needs is good for us as well as our friends. Asking for help allows our friends to minister to us in our time of need.

The second lesson we can take from Gethsemane, is to be there for a friend whenever they call. Jesus asked for help and his Companions let him down. They didn’t stay awake and pray in his most desperate final hours. This is where forgiveness comes in. Our friends are human and they will make mistakes. We forgive because we are forgiven (Eph. 4:32). When we are hurt by someone, it is easy to shut down and turn away from that person, but Jesus teaches us to forgive and to love others above all else.

The final part of the Circle of Friends and the final lesson we can take from the Garden of Gethsemane is that Jesus knew who was at his core. God. When the three Companions were sleeping, Jesus went to his ultimate friend. At that moment, his Father was the only one he could turn to. He is the only one who could provide the wisdom, strength and love that Jesus needed.

We have to be careful to seek God first in all of our relationships. We need to keep Him at our core and rely on Him for the things that only He can provide. He will guide us in all of our relationships and He will show us how to love others. He is the glue that keeps us together.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12
(One of my personal fave scriptures and completely perfect as a Lylas description)

Lord, I thank you for your friendship. Thank you for sending your son to teach me how to truly be a friend. I know that it will not always be easy to be friends with other people. Please help me to be kind, loving, forgiving, generous and patient. Help me to reach out of my comfort zone and connect with other people. Show me where I am looking to the wrong person for friendship and please help me love the 4’s and 5’s in my life (or bring more if needed). I know that you will always be my very best friend and no one can take your place at the center of my Circle of Friends. I love you and look forward to our future together. Amen.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Greatest Words Ever Spoken

….Everything Jesus said about your life, and everything else. A book by Steven K. Scott.

I saw this book while literally looking over my dad’s shoulder and eavesdropping on the Glen Beck Show on Fox. I saw none of the context or even knew the before and after conversation but when I learned what the book was about, I knew it had to be part of my library. I ordered it and JUST received it yesterday with my mail delivery; I have only read the Introduction and had to run to my blog to share with anyone looking for answers; the true “What would Jesus do?” resource.

Below is the introduction for this book in its entirety. More than enough to make you want to follow the link to order your own; to be used for a bible study or personally to get advice directly from the source….like none other available anywhere.

I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man…
Between Him and whoever else in the world,
there is no possible term of comparison.
Napoleon Bonaparte

“The greatest words ever spoken.” How could such a claim be made about any collection of statements? With all the life-changing words spoken by so many great men and women throughout history, how could the words of one person rise above all the others?
     To qualify as the greatest words every spoken, they would have to reveal incredible truths that would otherwise go undiscovered. They would have to bring extraordinary, perhaps even near-miraculous benefit to the hearts, minds, and lives of those who read them. Certainly, to qualify as the greatest words ever spoken, they would have to produce life-altering changes not just for a few people but for millions. They would have to impart hope to those in despair, joy to those whose hearts are broken, and peace that subdues even the most paralyzing fears.
     To earn the ranking of the greatest words ever spoken, the words would have to exert enough power to transform a hateful heart into a loving one, a mind driven by greed into one overflowing with generosity, a life ruled by arrogance into one that is driven by the desire to serve others. And if they were truly the greatest words ever spoken, they would have the power to give sight to the blind, deliverance to the captive, forgiveness to the wrongdoer, and life to the dead. If anyone’s words could accomplish these things, they would certainly rise above all other words in history. They would deserve to be called the greatest words ever spoken.
     These words exist; they have been spoken and recorded. And, yes, they have accomplished remarkable, miraculous results. The greatest words ever spoken are the words of Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the Son of the living God.

The If-Then Statement That Can Change Your Life

If Jesus is who He claimed to be, then everything He said must be fully, absolutely true. If He is the Son of God, He would never speak in error. Think of the implications. First, if Jesus’ words are absolute truth, they are the standard by which all other purported truths must be measured. Second, everything Jesus said about you, your life, and your circumstances is true. His words describe your life and reveal your immediate and long-term future. To succeed in life, to understand yourself, and to gain wisdom about your present and your future, you need to learn everything Jesus said about you. In that way you will discover what He wants for you and from you.
     And then there are the promises Jesus made. If you choose to follow Him, then all of his 108 promises are promises you can count on – promises that will produce peace in a troubled heart, joy in the midst of tragedy, success in place of failure, and most important, a glorified life that lasts for eternity.
     And this leads to the most important question you will ever face. Is Jesus of Nazareth the person He claimed to be, or was He a mere man?
     Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor or France and one of the greatest military geniuses who ever lived, concluded that Jesus was no mere man. Once when Napoleon was discussing various emperors and their empires with his most trusted advisors, the name of Jesus came up. To the surprise of his generals, Napoleon exclaimed:

I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist….Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. Between Him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by Himself. His ideas and sentiments, the truth which He announces, His manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things…The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, everything is above me – everything remains grand, of a grandeur which overpowers…One can absolutely find nowhere, but in Him alone, the imitation or the example of His life…I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ…Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or explain it. 
Here everything is extraordinary.

Jesus of Nazareth

What did Napoleon know that some of us do not? He was a student of history and a student of men, and he had diligently studied the life and words of Christ. In light of this, he believed that no one in history could compare to Jesus of Nazareth. Think about it: how could one man from an obscure village in the Middle East have changed so many millions of lives as well as the course of history? If ever a man should have been overlooked by history, it was Jesus.
     Consider the facts:
     Jesus was born to a peasant couple in a village in the middle of nowhere. He lived in a country occupied by foreign conquerors. His only means of transportation was His legs.
     He was a carpenter until He turned thirty, and only then did He begin to teach and speak in public. For three short years He proclaimed His message, mostly in small villages.
     After being falsely accused and then convicted in a rigged trial, He was sentenced to death by an official who believed Him to be innocent. He died the death of a criminal and was executed on a cross between two convicted criminals. Only His mother and a few of His close followers were present at His execution. The rest of His disciples had fled, hiding from the mob and the Roman officials.
     It was only after Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His followers that His disciples were transformed from distraught cowards into confident, fearless believers and preachers of Jesus’ message. But they had no means to spread His story and teachings to a mass audience. There were no radios, televisions, or printing presses. In fact, paper as we know it had not yet been invented. Every papyrus scroll had to be painstakingly written by hand. The only way to make a copy was to read the original and laboriously copy it word by word. (Much like I am doing now in copying this introduction to this amazing, must have book)
     In first-century Palestine, the thought that Jesus’ life might make a significant impact on anyone beyond the Judean countryside was laughable. Any history of this itinerant rabbi who appeared in public for only three years should have been lost – either burned or buried – in the rubble when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman legions less than forty years after Jesus walked the earth. Against such a background, you can begin to understand the miracle of His life and words. Jesus’ short early life – far from being lost to the generations who have followed – became the focal point of history.
     How could one man’s life impact humanity to a greater extent than any other person or any series of events in history? As you read The Greatest Words Ever Spoken, you will get to know this man who changed everything…forever. Jesus did it all, not with money, armies, science, or politics, but with the witness of His life and the power of His words. His life and the miracles He performed attracted the attention of the crowds, but it was what He said that melted their hearts and transformed their lives. The apostle John said, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
The Tragedy of the Information Age

Today we have more information about everything than any past generation had, yet most people know less of what Jesus said. Countless people are so unaware of first- century history that they are swayed by baseless myths perpetuated by works of fiction such as The Da Vinci Code. Many Christians have built their beliefs and values on the words of Bible teachers, authors, and television and radio preachers rather than on the words of Christ. As wonderful as the words of preachers and writers may be, they can’t begin to compare in wonder and power to the pure, undiluted words of Jesus Christ. After all, He alone claimed to be embodiment of all truth when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6). He made incredible promises to the those who would build their lives on His words.
     It’s important to realize that Jesus did not make these promises to people who followed the words of any other teacher, prophet, or leader. The words of Jesus stand alone in truth, power, and authority. For example, He promised, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32, NASB). And that was just the beginning. Here are a few of the many promises Jesus made to those who choose to abide in His Word:
·         You will receive eternal life.
·         Your desires will be fulfilled in answer to your prayers.
·         God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will be your constant companion, both with you and within you.
·         You will receive a level of peace and joy, direct from God, that is otherwise unattainable.
·         You will impact the lives of others in ways that can’t be achieved strictly by human effort.
·         You will be loved by God in a unique way.
·         You will avoid God’s ultimate judgment.
·         You will see miracles in your life that others can’t understand or explain.
·         You will learn eternal truths that will set you free from all that holds you captive.

Jesus Was Not a Religious Leader!

Jesus Christ did not come to earth to start a new religion. In fact, He leveled His harshest criticisms at the religious leaders of His day. He accused them of not knowing God and said they had used religion to bind people to a life of misery, frustration, and failure. He claimed they were blind and had blinded the “spiritual eyes” of their followers (see Matthew 15:13-14; 23:13-24)
     When He described Himself, Jesus claimed that He had come from God and that His mission was to reveal who God was and what God wanted. Most important, Jesus claimed that He could lead anyone into an intimate relationship with the only true God and that in doing so He would lead them into eternal life. In His final prayer before His crucifixion, Jesus state, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
     Think about getting to know the God who created the universe. What would it be like to know Him on a first-name basis – or, even better to know Him so intimately that you could call Him your best friend, even your dad? Imagine what it would be like if you could consistently experience His presence and a level of peace and joy that no adversity could vanquish. That’s exactly what will happen as you begin to focus on the words of Christ.
     The words of Jesus have changed the course of history by changing millions of lives, one life at a time. His words were first believed by those who witnessed His miracles. He turned water into wine and caused the blind to receive their sight, the lame to walk, and the dead to rise. Fortunately for us, He promised even greater blessings to those in later generations who would believe in Him without seeing Him in person. For two thousand years Jesus has kept that promise. He extends the same promise to you. As you begin to store up His words in your mind and heart, you will discover their life-changing power in ways you never thought possible.

The Life Issues That Jesus Addressed

In this book you will find every word of Jesus that is recorded in the New Testament, organized in more than two hundred topics. This will enable you to read everything Jesus said without the interruption of commentary, transitional scenes, and details about the activities of the people who surrounded Him. As you read this book, you can immerse yourself in Jesus’ words. You can reflect on every statement He made about things that are important to you.  You’ll see everything the Lord said on such subjects as prayer, faith, eternal life, fear, your life priorities, His incredible promises, and the claims He made about Himself.
     Because Jesus’ words are organized by topic, you can easily grasp the breadth of what He said on each one. In a matter of minutes, you can read everything He said about a topic, which will help you gain a deeper understanding of His teachings. People who have read Jesus’ words as they are organized in this book say they gained a depth of wisdom and experienced a life-changing power far greater than they could have imagined.
     The two hundred-plus topics have been grouped into nine chapters, each addressing a general category. At the beginning of every chapter, I added a few thoughts about the topics addressed inn that chapter. The chapters are:
1.    The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Jesus
2.    The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About God the Father
3.    The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About the Holy Spirit
4.    The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Eternity
5.    The Greatest Words Ever Spoken to Jesus’ Followers
6.    The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Humanity
7.    The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About God Reaching Out to Us
8.    The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About How to Know God
9.    The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Personal Relationships

The Only Foundation That Is Truly Secure

Jesus made a number of incredible promises to men and women who learn, embrace, and follow His words. He said we should base all our values, beliefs, and behaviors on the foundation of His words. Unfortunately, most of us base our lives on a mixture of things we’ve learned from every source we’ve been exposed to. As a result, the foundation of our beliefs is a combination of truth and falsehood, including contradictory information and false assumptions. My hope is that as you study the words of Christ, any weaknesses in your current foundation will be revealed, and you will replace them with the undiluted, indestructible concrete of Jesus’ words. May He bless you in your pursuit of intimacy with God and the eternal truths revealed by His incomparable words.

How to Get the Most Out of This Book

This is not a book you will read cover to cover in a few sittings. You won’t find even one of the chapters to be a quick read. Instead, this book is a resource you can use for the rest of your life. The two hundred-plus topics offer great variety. If you’re seeking an answer to a specific question, a quick reading of Jesus’ words on that topic will meet that need. If you’re wrestling with an important decision, the wisdom and inspiration you seek can be found by reading His words on the appropriate topics. At the same time, a focused study of a topic can provide a rock-solid foundation for your faith. It will deepen your love for God and will provide an anchor in the greatest trials of life.
     This book can easily be adapted to the need of the moment. Depending on the topic and how you approach it, the spiritual meal can range from quick-energy bar to an entire buffet. Because of the wisdom offered on each topic comes solely from the undiluted statements of Christ, their breadth, depth, and power are enlightening, faith building, and life-changing.
Here are two suggestions that will help you get the most out of reading this book.

Use it as a Quick Reference
Whenever you are studying a biblical subject, considering a spiritual question, or seeking guidance for a decision, the first question you should ask is “What did Jesus say?” His words will provide the foundation for all your values, beliefs, and doctrines.
     To locate a topic, check the book’s table of contents, which lists the nine general categories (one per chapter) and the specific topics within each of the nine categories. You can also go to the back of the book and search the two hundred-plus topics in alphabetical order. Once located, each topic includes every direct statement Christ made on that topic and most of the implied references. Because context is so important, the verses surrounding the key points are usually provided.
     As you begin to read Jesus’ statements, underline the key points. For example, in Chapter 5 under the heading “The Promises of Christ,” you will find more than one hundred promises that Jesus made to His followers. Here is one of the crucial promises Jesus made:

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears MY word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. (John 5:24-25, NKJV)

In this promise, I underlined the condition to be met so the promise can be fulfilled. The condition is you must hear (follow) Christ’s words and truly believe in the God who sent Him. The promised benefits, set in boldface type, are you’ll receive eternal life and you won’t be subject to God’s judgment.
     When you underline or highlight key points of every statement of Jesus as you study them, something wonderful happens. Each statement becomes like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. As you read all of Christ’s statements on a given topic and underline or highlight the key points, you’ll see the pieces of the puzzle come together to create a clear picture of what He is teaching. Any other Bible verses you read on that subject will serve as additional pieces for the picture.

Use It for Topical Studies for You and Your Family

One of the greatest values of this book is that it will enable you to quickly and effectively study any subject that Christ spoke about. Individuals, couples, and families can select topics to study during morning or evening devotions, in-depth individual Bible studies, or group Bible studies. I suggest going through the table of contents and placing a check by the topics that interest you the most. One of my friends asked his wife and his children to put their initials beside each topic they wanted to study. This helped them to prioritize the subjects they wanted to study first. They decided not only to study the topics individually but to use that list for selecting topics for family devotions.
     As you study the words of Christ, you will receive the benefits He promised in John 16:13 and John 14:26. The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth, He will tell you things to come, and He will glorify Christ. Jesus also promises that the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all the things that Christ as spoken to you.
     You will notice that most of the Scripture sections begin with verses from the gospel of John, followed by verses from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and sometimes Acts, 1 or 2 Corinthians, or Revelation, in that order. I begin the topical sections with verses from John because his gospel is more direct and more intimate. John referred to himself as “the disciple….Jesus loved” (John 21:20). John’s account of Jesus’ life conveys unmistakable warmth and a sense of immediacy. Reading his gospel is like receiving an invitation from an old friend. I hope you will accept his invitation as you read Jesus’ words addressing various subjects in this book.
     Jesus’ greatest promises were made to those who will hear His words and do them. His words will provide abundant light and perfect wisdom for any decision you face and all the power you will need to overcome any adversity. But the promises He makes and the power He offers will never be known by those who refuse to hear His words. In my forty-three years of discovering and relying on His words, I have experienced miraculous outcomes in every area of my life. What His words have done for me, I know they will also do for you. May you learn their meaning and experience their power as never before.

Whew…. Finished. The entire Introduction of a book that is sure to change the way I address every day. I already consider Jesus my B.F.F. but I love that this book puts it plainly and simply and “dummies it down” for me. I can literally say “What would Jesus do?”

Amazing…awesome… Yet another gift from Him that I couldn’t be more thankful for and MUST share with those most important to me; ANY and ALL reading this blog.

Thank you Steven K. Scott for taking the time to put The Greatest Words Ever Spoken into a succinct 500ish pages including various ways to look up EVERY topic imagined; I am sure Jesus covered them all in His perfectness.

I thought I knew my B.F.F. pretty well but I appreciate this opportunity to get to know Him even better and to spread the word with my closest friends….a.k.a. ANYONE He puts in my path. <wink>