December 30 Esight, 2007

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.”—Psalms 27:8Every person “moved to seek the Savior” does so only because “Christ is drawing the soul by His love” first (Christ Object Lessons, p. 45). There has been much talk this year concerning the need for God’s people to seek Him as never before. To this I say, “Amen!” However, I want to add a word of caution. Do not think for a moment that in so doing we are taking the initiative. As David stated above, if we are moved to seek God’s face as never before, this moving itself is evidence that our hearts are responding to God’s drawing as never before. God is seeking us much more than we are seeking Him, for “salvation does not come through our seeking after God but through God’s seeking after us” (Ibid, p. 189). Notice the principle. “The sheep that has strayed from the fold is the most helpless of all creatures. It must be sought for by the shepherd, for it cannot find its way back. So with the soul that has wandered away from God; he is as helpless as the lost sheep, and unless divine love had come to his rescue he could never find his way to God” (Ibid, p. 187.3).

Please, don’t misunderstand. I do not want to discourage any from seeking God’s face, but there is a danger in thinking that in our seeking there is some merit. God is the initiator. We are the responders. If we are calling out to God, it is only because He first is calling out to us.

As this new year begins, rather than making outlandish promises that you know you won’t keep, try surrendering instead. There are two reasons to do this. First, “your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you . . .” (Steps to Christ, p. 47). The second reason is that it is not through mustering up more spiritual energy that we experience a deeper state of closeness to God but through simply not resisting. “The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus; a knowledge of the plan of salvation will lead him to the foot of the cross in repentance (Ibid p. 27).

This new year, when God asks you to spend more time with Him, surrender.

When God moves you to pray, surrender.

When God moves your heart to reach out with love to some soul in need, do not resist. Surrender.

For it is in these precious moments, not that we find God, but we allow Him to find us.

“The question arises, How do we submit ourselves to God? It is simple. Look at your life; see what things pertain solely to the present, natural life, those things that you do by nature. Take a survey of the things that you are addicted to, which you know are not Christ-like, but which cause you condemnation, even by your own heart. Now you have doubtless done this; you have also repeatedly tried to overcome them and put them away, but have not been able to do so. But you sincerely desire to be rid of them. You would rather have Christ than your own ways. Therefore you say, ‘Here, Lord, take me as I am; I give myself into Thy hands, for Thee to do with me as thou wilt; take all these evils from me by the power that rests in Thee alone. Just as I am, without one plea, But that thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bids me to come To Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.’” (E.J Waggoner, Baptism and It’s Significance, p. 1)

December 23 Esight, 2007

“. . . To the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”—Luke 2:35Christmas is just around the corner! This week will be filled with distant family, old friends, wanted and unwanted gifts as well as holiday foods and treats for which we wait the entire year. And in the midst of all this celebration, let us remember why this time is celebrated by so many. The words above are taken from the prophecy of Simeon the elder who, with the uplifted baby Jesus in his arms, influenced by the Spirit, prophesied the mission and the ministry of that Precious Gift. It was for this purpose that Jesus came to this small planet. Leaving the ninety and nine unfallen worlds, he came to seek and to save this one lost world. As we have shared previously, the fall of man was deeply rooted in deception and lies regarding the character of our Heavenly Father; therefore, our redemption would be deeply rooted and grounded in our encountering the Truth. Jesus came to reveal the true thoughts of the Father’s heart toward you and me in hopes that through believing this, we might be “set free” (John 8:32).

“‘That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’ In the light of the Saviour’s life, the hearts of all, even from the Creator to the prince of darkness, are revealed. Satan has represented God as selfish and oppressive, as claiming all and giving nothing, as requiring the service of His creatures for His own glory, and making no sacrifice for their good. But the gift of Christ reveals the Father’s heart. It testifies that the thoughts of God toward us are ‘thoughts of peace, and not of evil’ (Jer. 29:11). It declares that while God’s hatred of sin is as strong as death, His love for the sinner is stronger than death. Having undertaken our redemption, He will spare nothing, however dear, which is necessary to the completion of His work. No truth essential to our salvation is withheld, no miracle of mercy is neglected, no divine agency is left unemployed. Favor is heaped upon favor, gift upon gift. The whole treasury of heaven is open to those He seeks to save. Having collected the riches of the universe, and laid open the resources of infinite power, He gives them all into the hands of Christ, and says, All these are for man. Use these gifts to convince him that there is no love greater than Mine in earth or heaven. His greatest happiness will be found in loving Me.” (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 57)

Did you catch that? God through Christ was trying to “convince” or prove something to you and me! Meditate on this statement this week. Let the full weight of it permeate your heart. Let the gift of Christ accomplish for you its divinely appointed purpose. May your heart finally be convinced. May this Christmas be truly one to remember, because this year, you have tasted and seen more deeply than ever before, you have surrendered to this “proven” truth as never before, you have believed more deeply than ever before “that there is no greater love,” “in earth or heaven” than the love that our God, our Father has for you, dear reader. This week, may your heart come alive as you let yourself fall into the embrace of His perfect love for you.

Merry Christmas,

December 17 Esight, 2007

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT—Romans 4:7-8Before I share this week’s devotional, I would like to thank so many of you for your continued patience these past few weeks. We have recently transitioned into a more efficient system for sending out our weekly and daily emails. In the process of this move, many of your email subscription settings were temporarily suspended. For many of you, today’s email is the first you have received in the last few weeks. We humbly apologize. Today, I am happy to announce that the transition is complete and your settings have been restored. Please feel free to respond to this email if you would like to have the weekly devotionals you missed emailed to you directly. Once again, we apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused you. Our hope is that with our new system, situations such as these will now be minimized. Blessings to you all and happy reading.

In chapter 4 of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, verses 7 and 8, we find four words I would like you to consider and meditate on this week. (He is actually quoting the words of David from Psalm 32) The first is the word “forgiven.” Here, we have the Greek word “apheimi,” which literally means “to send away.” The scriptures are quite clear in this regard. We are sinners, each one tormented by our past mistakes and shortcomings. But God does not abandon us in our guilt and shame. He comes to each of us and “sends away” the sin that torments us so relentlessly. “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). “Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).

Next, we find that God covers our sin. Yet please be careful. Follow the imagery carefully. First, He takes our sin, which continually torments our conscience, and sends it away. Then, He covers it. But what does this mean? The Greek word here is “epikalupto,” which literally means “to cover with a shroud so as to hide from view.” God places His righteousness, His love, His grace, and His forgiveness as a shroud between us and the torment of our past, to cover our sin so as to hide it from our view. He places a barrier between the constant memory of our past and says, “That was then, this is now. In Me, you are a new creation. Do not dwell on your sin, rather, dwell in my love and grace.”

Not only does He want us live in the present blessed peace of His forgiveness, but He also assures us that He will not take our past into account, either. The word “account” here is “logizomai,” which means to “keep in mind, keep a count of, to keep a record of.” His promise is, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). For David himself cried out, “If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3).

This is why both Paul and David stated that the person who can experience this wonder is blessed or “makarios,” which means “happy!” Rejoice in God’s great forgiveness this week. No matter what you have done or what you have become, this experience can be yours. Do you desire to have God send your sin away and then interpose Himself between your past and your present? Why don’t you tell Him about it right now? Remember, “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound” (Romans 5:20). It was to give you this blessed experience that He came as that helpless babe in Bethlehem. This holiday season, will you allow Him to draw you further up and further in to His wondrous grace? I know you will.

December 9 Esight, 2007

Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body, they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of the dawn, and the earth shall cast out her dead—Isaiah 26:19.This past Thursday, I awoke early in the morning to the phone ringing beside my bed. I answered to find that one of my dearest, most precious friends in the world, my grandmother, had passed away that night in her sleep. I have spent a considerable amount of time in prayer this week talking to the one to whom my grandmother always referred as “sweet Jesus.” He is sweet, especially in moments like these. I thank Him this week, for He has brought “life and immortality to light through the gospel.” I thank Him because He “died and rose again,” and thus, we have the same hope that “those who sleep in Jesus” will be blessed with the same fate. I thank Him, for “as in Adam all die, in Christ all shall be made alive.” I thank Him because “the hour is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice, and come forth.”

My grandmother deserves a large portion of the credit for the life I have chosen to live. She was my first introduction to Jesus. At age six, she would tell me stories of Jesus as I went to bed each night. Each time, when she was finished, she would whisper in my ear as she tucked me into bed, “Jesus has special plans for you, Herbie. He’s going to use you. One day, you’re going to be a preacher.” I do not know whether her words were a self-fulfilling prophecy or she just knew, but what I do know is that I have never met a more giving, more selfless, more forgiving person than my grandmother. I never learned much theology from my grandmother. What she taught me was far more valuable. What she showed me was what it means to live a life dedicated to revealing God’s love to this world through our treatment of others. In the way she treated her fellow man, she was the most Godlike woman I have ever met. In the last few months, I would spend time each week with her, sharing with her testimonies of the many lives God was touching through the work of Renewed Heart Ministries. She would well up with tears each time and say, “I knew it, I just knew God had a special plan for you, Herbie.” (She was one of the few who still got away with putting the “ie” at the end of my name.)

I was privileged to speak at her funeral this week. It is by far, the greatest honor I have received in my twelve years of preaching.

This next week, especially during the holiday season, take time to single out a family member who means something special to you and tell him or her about it. Thank that person for the blessing he or she is to you in your life. For it is in our expressions of love for one another, remember, that we most greatly reveal the character of our God.

I will miss you Nanny, but I know we will see one other again. Death is not a period, but a comma. And so I lay you in the arms of your sweet Jesus, rest well, and I’ll see you on that resurrection morn.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors and their works follow them”—Revelation 14:13.

Happy Holidays to you all,

December 2 Esight, 2007

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.—Isaiah 9:6

This holiday season, I find that I truly resonate with the words in the verse above as never before. Yet this week I’d like you to sincerely contemplate what this verse states. The very next sentence introduces a curious thought: “and the government shall be upon his shoulders.” What did Isaiah mean when he placed “government” on the “shoulders” of this divine-human infant? The answer, I believe, can be discerned from the following statement.

“Through Christ’s redeeming work the government of God stands justified. The Omnipotent One is made known as the God of love. Satan’s charges are refuted . . . By love’s self-sacrifice, the inhabitants of earth and heaven are bound to their Creator in bonds of indissoluble union” (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 26).

Ever since Lucifer’s rebellion began, Love and Selfishness have stood face to face. Questions were raised, lies spread, and doubts conceived. Satan represented God as a being whose chief attribute was self-centeredness. Yet “to this sin-darkened earth He came to reveal the light of God’s love” (White, p.19).

“It will be seen that the glory shining in the face of Jesus is the glory of self-sacrificing love. In the light from Calvary it will be seen that the law of self-renouncing love is the law of life for earth and heaven; that the love which “seeketh not her own” has its source in the heart of God . . . .” (White, p.19).

When we truly comprehend the sacrifice of God in the gift of His only Son, we begin to perceive the truth that “God so loves” (John 3:16). But ponder what this means for you personally, dear friend. Through the gift of Christ not only does the government of heaven stand exemplified, but, much more, this gift allows “every son and daughter of Adam [to] understand that our Creator is the friend of sinners” (White, p. 24).

Not only has God been revealed as a God of love. His love has been shown to know no bounds. For God has been revealed to be the friend even of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam and Eve.

He is your friend, dear reader. He’s not against you. He loves you with a love that you will never fully comprehend, a love you can only experience. Will you allow the gift of Christ to awaken in you a deeper encounter with His life-changing love this Holiday Season? It’s more than lights, shopping, gingerbread, and trees. There is nothing wrong with these traditions, but the season simply means much more, for in the gift that this time of year celebrates, the “government of God” stands vindicated, the character of God is revealed, and His attitude toward sinners, His innermost thoughts toward you stand unveiled. Take time this season to meditate on what the gift of Christ reveals about what’s in God’s heart and how it relates to you. In this gift is manifested a love that this world has yet to truly comprehend and believe. Dare we believe it? Will you believe it?

“The earth was dark through misapprehension of God. That the gloomy shadows might be lightened, that the world might be brought back to God, Satan’s deceptive power was to be broken. This could not be done by force. The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened. To know God is to love Him; His character must be manifested in contrast to the character of Satan. This work only one Being in all the universe could do. Only He who knew the height and depth of the love of God could make it known. Upon the world’s dark night the Sun of Righteousness must rise, ‘with healing in His wings’” (Mal. 4:2; White, p. 22).