December 31 Esight, 2008

Herb MontgomeryAre you tired of making New Year’s resolutions only to watch them vanish like smoke as the following weeks ensue?

I’d like you to consider two very opposite things as this new year begins.

First, what does it really mean to make a promise? We human beings have such precious little follow-through that the Bible actually states it’s “better not to vow!” (Ecclesiastes 5:5). Many times, promising only serves to make us feel better in the moment as we make the resolution. Doing so truly grants us nothing in the eventual outcome. We simply experience further disappointment and doubt in our own sincerity and whether or not God can accept us.

“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 . . .” (White; Steps to Christ, p. 47)

Second, I would like you to consider a very different option this new-year. Instead of making promises, try just choosing to believe a few.

This one is one of my favorites:

“Therefore, tell Israel, ‘Message of GOD, the Master: I’m not doing this for you, Israel. I’m doing it for me, to save my character, my holy name, which you’ve blackened in every country where you’ve gone. I’m going to put my great and holy name on display, the name that has been ruined in so many countries, the name that you blackened wherever you went. Then the nations will realize who I really am, that I am GOD, when I show my holiness through you so that they can see it with their own eyes.

For here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take you out of these countries, gather you from all over, and bring you back to your own land. I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed [i.e. other-centered], not self-willed [i.e. self-centered]. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. You’ll once again live in the land I gave your ancestors. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!” — Ezekiel 36.22-28, The Message

That is a pretty amazing promise concerning the kind of work God wants to do in each of us! In the Bible, there are so many promises that He makes to us about so many precious things. What we need is not greater resolve but greater faith. I want to challenge you, for the next few weeks, instead of making new year’s promises from you to God that will fade over the next few weeks into regret and remorse, go find five promises that are especially meaningful from God to you. Repeat them daily over the next few weeks and choose … to believe.

Happy New Year!

December 22 Esight, 2008

“These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.”— Psalms 50.21

I was awakened this morning by my one-year-old son’s voice as he called out, “Papa? Papa?” I turned to him, but, much to my surprise, he was not reaching for me. Instead, he was reaching for the phone. My son calls the phone “Papa”! That was a rude awakening. As I pondered this, I was reminded that I had been on the road too frequently during the first year of his life. God then began to whisper a very stirring realization to my heart.

This is exactly what happens to many believers in their relationships with God. For my son and me, the phone is the conduit through which we have communicated over the past few months. Hence, it is natural for him to confuse my name or my person with the phone. To him, they are one and the same because that is how his he and his mother speak to me most of the time. But the phone is inanimate. The phone cannot hurt him. It is just an object.

Many people in modern society experience the same type of confusion in their interactions with God. They mistake the conduits through which they experience God for God Himself. Such conduits can include churches, holidays, books, families – the list is endless. None of these are perfect representations of God; they are simply conduits through which we can experience Him. Let me illustrate the dangers of this faulty view. When a person is hurt or offended by a church, a pastor, or a well-meaning church member, then, voila! That person is no longer interested in anything that relates to God. It is clear, then, that we must be careful not to confuse any event with God Himself – not even a holiday season, which, although incredibly beautiful, also contains a very dark side for many people.

God is separate! He is not the church. He is not your family. He is not a book that is difficult to understand. He is distinct from these experiences. Does this mean that these “conduits” are wrong? No! God forbid! Though they are fallible, these are the means through which God endeavors to reach us with insights about Himself and His love for us. Why, though, does He use these agents, if they include such risk? Because, as with everything, the greater the risk, the greater the reward. We can identify with our relationship with a church, a pastor, a spouse, a father, or a friend, even though these relationships can also produce pain. We must realize that only God is infallible; only God is purely other-centered. Only God is love. We must always be careful to distinguish between the conduits and God Himself. Something to consider.

I wish you God’s best this week. Also, if you celebrate any, regardless of which ones you choose to observe, happy holidays!

December 7 Esight, 2008

Let me say at the beginning of this week, that if you are enjoying this holiday season with all your romantic soul . . . this weeks esight is not for you. (There’s nothing wrong with that by the way, I’m just saying I’m not concerned for you. You’re doing well.) But for those who are going through, maybe, economic hardship this holiday season, or maybe family issues, wishing things were different, or just struggling with what history tells us is the loneliest time of the year for many, rather then writing my own words to you, I would like to share a passage I read last week. It brought all of you to my mind and to my heart. I truly wish you God’s best during this time of the year. Keep your eyes, not on what is present, but on what is to come. And remember, You are loved beyond measure.

In His Inexpressible Love,

Romans 8:17-39, The Message:

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs.

These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. Romans 8.24

But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun. So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?

If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.

We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

I wish you God’s best this week,

November 16 Esight, 2008

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”—Mark 8.36Since we began in the spring of 2007, we are quickly coming to the end of the first full year of Renewed Heart Ministries (RHM). And with this milestone, looking back at birth pains and now at the inevitable growing pains of every ministry, I am personally soliciting prayers for wisdom as we face 2009. I must confess that I am away from home too much. I have spent too many days, weeks and months on the road this past year. And although I long to have as many as possible see God for who He really is, I cannot continue to do this at the cost of my family. Both of my daughters recently called me while I was on the road. I will spare them the embarrassment of revealing the details of our conversation, but it is evident that they miss their Papa.

Recently, I heard the story of a father who was in a position much like mine. He decided to pull away from his ministry as a traveling preacher and dedicate himself to a local congregation where he could get to know his family once again. Time does not permit here to express the difference this made in this traveling preacher’s son’s life. From that day forward this preacher’s family became his first priority. And that preacher’s son grew up to be none other than Billy Graham.

Does this mean that I will pull away entirely from traveling and speaking? No. But it does mean I will be pulling back some. As I look at 2009, I am currently scheduled to be away almost every weekend until the spring of 2010. I cannot—and will not—do this any longer to my kids and my wife. I am praying that the public will understand. I’m also praying that the support we have received as a ministry will continue while we seek as a ministry to put our priorities in a better order. What will this mean? Although I will continue to do meetings every month, I am actively praying for wisdom to know how to limit the amount of time I am away. Inevitably, this means some churches must be cancelled or rescheduled. I know this is not going to be pleasant. We currently have openings starting in the summer of 2010. Please understand, of course this does not mean that all travel will be suspended. However, in 2009, some meetings will have to wait. I cannot spend another year watching my children grow up without a father.

We are also going to be dedicating more time to the projects that enable the gospel to be shared without as much travel. My speaking schedule has not permitted me to spend half the time I desire this year on many of the projects we as a ministry were supposed to have out by now. The DVD’s alone of Life Unlimited were supposed to be ready by June; instead, they are just now being released. The book we were scheduled to release by January is now scheduled for 2010 from the Review and Herald. The first three Bible Studies we wanted to finish are edited; however, my speaking schedule has prevented our team from continuing this project with any efficiency. Please understand, we at RHM seek not just balance, but effectiveness. And although we have been incredibly busy, we have not been as effective as we desire in providing resources for others to use as well. Thus for the sake of family, and for Renewed Heart Ministries as a whole, please pray for us as we seek wisdom in 2009.

I wish you God’s best this week!

November 11 Esight, 2008

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 17-19, NASBWhat does it mean to be rooted and grounded? I’m very familiar with how these words are normally used in the context of the denomination to which I belong. Whenever we say that a person is “grounded,” we usually mean that this person is convinced beyond all argument of the teachings of his or her church. The denomination with which I fellowship holds 28 beliefs to be fundamental. To be rooted and grounded in this context means that we have considered for ourselves, studied for ourselves, made our decision, and are unable to be convinced otherwise. But this is not exactly how Paul used these two words. It was not the doctrinal teachings of Christianity or some denomination within Christianity with which he was so occupied.

Paul’s desire—his wish, his prayer—was that we would be rooted and grounded in love! That we would become settled, beyond all argument, in the truth that God loves us! That we would be unwavering, unable to be convinced otherwise. That we would be “rooted and grounded” in the fact that God loves us, no matter what others might make us feel, or, even more importantly, how our own shortcomings and mistakes might make us feel. That we would be beyond any capacity to be convinced of anything that would even hint at contradicting the fact that nothing, absolutely nothing, could ever make God love us any less. This is referred to by some as the “sealing”:

Just as soon as the people of God are sealed in their foreheads—it is not any seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved—just as soon as God’s people are sealed and prepared for the shaking, it will come. Indeed, it has begun already. (E.G. White, Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 1161)

John saw this event:

And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. Revelation 7: 2-4

And notice what the result of this sealing truly is:

Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. Revelation 14: 1 (emphasis added.)

God’s “name” is the Biblical way of referring to His Character! (For more on this, please listen to Two Pictures Collide at www.renewedheartministries.com.)

God’s character, God’s name, can be summed up in three words. God is love! (1 John 4:8) To be sealed, or rooted and grounded in this, is to not only believe that God is love, but also that He loves me! And nothing can convince me otherwise!

And what will be the glorious result of this conviction, this faith? According to our original passage, we will then be “filled with all the fullness of God!”

John wholeheartedly agrees with Paul:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. I John 4: 7-8 (emphasis added.)

When we become convinced of the vast dimensions of God’s love for us, this love will awaken that same love in us! We will be filled with all the fullness of the very God who is love!

God wants to seal you in His love, dear reader! He wants you to be rooted and grounded in His love for you so that nothing will ever be able to convince you otherwise. So that you might say with Paul, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor 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: 38-39

Nothing! Nothing! Nothing will ever make Him love you any less! You are loved. Only by being rooted and grounded in the vast dimensions of His love for us can He restore this same kind of love in the hearts of humanity once again. Love is not just the result; it is the very means by which the result is accomplished. Only by love is love awakened.

I wish you God’s best this week.

November 2 Esight, 2008

“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” -Hebrews 9:14I would like you to consider things differently for a moment.

1. Sin, through the presence of God, produces an intrinsic shame and guilt that, if we were left to bear alone, would crush out our life.

2. Forgiveness, from a biblical perspective, is not preoccupied with the appeasement of any ill feelings harbored against us by the Divine.

3. Forgiveness is occupied with cleansing the conscience of the sinner from the intrinsic, life crushing shame and guilt set in motion by our sin, thus enabling us to enter into God’s presence once again.

4. Forgiveness always comes at a price to the one who has been violated.

With these thoughts in place, consider the above verse taken from the epistle to the Hebrews. The author here states one of the purposes for the shedding of Christ’s blood. Now I want to reassure you that I do believe the primary purpose of Calvary was to reveal the character of the Father. But its secondary purpose, and thus the medium through which we see God’s character, is His Divine act of forgiveness for the purpose of cleansing our consciences through the gift of repentance in response to His shed blood.

With this in mind, consider a text that has troubled far too many.

“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” -Hebrews 9:22

The Greek word for “remission of sins” is aphesis. It is the feminine singular nominative form of the Greek noun aphiemi. Aphiemi refers specifically to the release of a prisoner or someone who is indebted. Many have read the above verse and assumed that Calvary was purposed for the assuaging of some ill feelings being harbored toward us by the Divine. By the phrase “remission of sins” we have assumed a reference to some Divine “letting us off the hook,” so to speak. This paints a very relationally destructive picture of God, to say the least. With this picture we will, at best, be thankful for Jesus while subconsciously harboring fear, wondering what God would have done to us had Jesus not stepped forward.

This is not at all what Hebrews 9:22 is saying. The “remission of sins” is not referring to appeasing some thirst for blood harbored in an angered God. Aphiemi is talking about releasing us, and cleansing us on the level of our consciences from the life crushing guilt and shame that will cause God’s presence to us to be destructive rather than life giving. It was to “cleanse our conscience” (Hebrews 9:14) for which Christ’s blood was shed. It was in order to send sin’s intrinsic shame and guilt into “remission” that Christ died. Calvary was for the purpose of “releasing” us so we can enter into God’s divine, other-centered presence once again. Otherwise, the same glory that is life to the angels, will be death to us!

Understand, Calvary was to save you “from your sins,” (Matthew 1:21) not God. God is not the enemy, sin is! God is not the one we should fear, sin is! Yes, God loves you no matter what you do, but Sin doesn’t! Sin is intrinsically life destructive. Everything in nature functions according to God’s principle of other-centered love. Only when something turns inward does it begin to die. This is no different for us.*

The amplified version of Hebrews 9:22 is quite amazing. It recognizes these two opposing perspectives held by many in the interpretation of the verse:

“[In fact] under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins.” -Hebrews 9:22

Notice that this version defines “remission” two ways: a release or cleansing from sin’s intrinsically destructive guilt and the Divinely imposed punishment merited by our sins. But could the punishment for our sins be more intrinsic? Could sin’s life crushing guilt and sin’s punishment be truly one and the same?

God is not saying to this world, “Serve me or I’ll kill you!” He is crying out, “You’re dying! Let me save you!”

Thoughts to ponder.

I wish you God’s best this week.

*This is not to imply that God never has nor never will take a human life. But simply looking at what these specific texts in Hebrews are communicating to us.

October 26 Esight, 2008

“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat?’ But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink?’ He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” -Luke 17:7-10Is there a difference between the relationship between mutual friends and the relationship between a slave and their master? Go one step further! Is there a difference between the closest of friends, between spouses, and that which exists between a slave and their master? There should be!

I was reminded, once again, while reading through the gospel of Luke, of this distinction. I believe it would be well for many to keep this distinction in mind as they go about what they feel is their religious duty.

You see, a slave behaves out of fear of the master’s punishment or in hopes that a job well done will be rewarded. This is where many are today in their relationship with the Great Lover of this universe. They are working hard in hopes to either escape hell or earn a rich reward. Regardless, both are lethal to the relationship for which God created them. Additionally, it lacks logic.

Watch carefully.

First, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.” (Romans 4:4) Under this mentality, whatever you get is simply what was owed to you. But it goes a step further. Notice the implication this makes of the Master! The Master only rewards the servant because he desires certain behavior. He really doesn’t care about the servant outside of what that servant can do for him. In this paradigm, the Master is truly more egocentric than the slave! And if God is the Master, then these words begin to sting. Under this line of reasoning, our “reward” would be to “feed the Master,” so to speak, once we get there. Once we do “all that’s been commanded” we are not to expect any reward, but rather just to still be unworthy slaves having done what we should have! Is this really the type of relationship you want with the God of this universe?

Me neither! I’m thankful that God is interested in more, as well. Take note of the following passages.

“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.” —John 15:15

“At that time”—this is GOD’S Message still—”you’ll address me, ‘Dear husband!’ Never again will you address me,‘ My slave-master!’” —Hosea 2:16

And finally:

” Whoever seeks to keep his life [acting as a slave with only self-centered concern] will lose it, and whoever loses his life [the way one spouse does for another, out of love, not hope of reward or fear of loss] will preserve it.” —Luke 17:33

God is interested in much more than simply being your “Lord and Savior.” He wants to be your friend, dear reader. No, He wants to be your Husband! Will you allow Him to change the way you see Him? The way you’ve been relating to Him? He made you for so much more than what you’re presently experiencing. He made you for something much more intimate between Himself and you. Will you let Him take you within the veil?

I wish you God’s best this week.

October 19 Esight, 2008

“I am free and own no master; but I have made myself everyone’s servant, to win over as many as possible. To Jews I behaved like a Jew, to win Jews; that is, to win those under the law I behaved as if under the law, though not myself subject to the law. To win those outside that law, I behaved as if outside the law, though not myself outside God’s law, but subject to the law of Christ. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. To them all I have become everything in turn, so that in one way or another I may save some.” —1Corinthians 9:19-22This is quite a difficult verse for many to swallow. It sounds too much like Paul is being a politician. “Shaking babies and kissin’ hands,” so to speak. Is this really what Paul is saying? It sure sounds like it at first.

To the Jews I behaved like a Jew . . .

To win those under the law, I behaved as if under the law . . .

To win those outside the law, I behaved as if outside the law . . .

To the weak . . . weak . . .

Paul became, “All things to all people, so that by all means, he might save some.”

At first glance, this flies in the face of all the pulpit discourses throughout the centuries that have admonished the church to not be “like the world.” That’s exactly what Paul was doing, being like the world, in hopes that they might listen to what he has to say. But this sounds so scary. Well, it does take spiritual insight and maturity to know in which ways we are to be like those we are trying to reach, yet remain true to what or whom we are trying to lead them. First, you must decide what you are really about. What are you not willing to change? How are you going to be different? How much will you remain the same?

There are quite a few areas in which we must remain unique. We have a core message to give to the world, but there are a lot of peripheral, cultural, and traditional things that could stand a little adjustment. Knowing which things are which is where the rub lies. I’m going to focus on the one thing we are to be truly unique in.

“I give you a new commandment: love one another; as I have loved you, so you are to love one another.” —John 13:34

Disinterested benevolence. Other-centeredness. Concern for the welfare of others with no thought of what we might get in return. A no-strings-attached kind of giving. This is where we are to be unique. And we will be. Everyone in this world is looking out for number 1. “I’m ok, you’re ok . . . well, it doesn’t really matter if you’re ok, just as long as I am.” When others see you caring, giving, and doing things for them without wanting anything in return, they will take note! They will want to know why. This, alone, will separate you enough without adding anything else. Whomever you are trying to reach will want to listen, when they know you genuinely love them.

Consider what this means. There are some Christians who believe that the way we are to be different is in our externals. Many believe that we are to look different from the world. No! We are to be different from the world. Act differently. But in which way? Specifically, in how we relate to others. This will be our mark of distinction and it will not go unnoticed.

Pay close attention to the difference. What does it mean to look like the world, but live in accordance with the benevolence of heaven? The best example is Jesus. Jesus was accused of being a wine-bibber and a glutton. Not because he acted that way, but because he appeared that way. He looked like He was because He was socializing with prostitutes and the IRS, not to mention a few crooked lawyers. Consider John the Baptist. They would have never accused John of being a wine-bibber and a glutton. John was known for what he ate and what he wore. The externals. But notice the approach that Jesus took. Get as close as you can, even if those looking on lose sight of the difference between you and them. Those whom you’re trying to reach will see the difference. They see how you treat them in contrast to how others do and they will gravitate toward you and the love of our great God who is so passionately fond of them too.

Disinterested benevolence!

The disciples were instructed in it:

“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘ . . . And as you go proclaim the message: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is upon you.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. You received without cost; give without charge.’” —Matthew 10:5-8 (emphasis added)

Paul also applied it:

“Then what is my pay? It is the satisfaction of preaching the gospel without expense to anyone; in other words, of waiving the rights my preaching gives me.” —1Corinthians 9:18 (emphasis added)

This may very well be the reason why North American, post-modern, secular, materialistic capitalists are unknowingly not listening. What our culture today needs is a church that looks like them, but treats them as God does.

Something to consider.

I wish you God’s best this week.

October 12 Esight, 2008

He has told you, O man, O woman, what is good and right, and what is the most important thing to Him:

Always do what you believe is right! Love showing mercy and kindness to those around you who may not always do what you think is right! And then, be humble about it, walking through this life with Him who loves you. —Micah 6:8 (Personal Paraphrase)

This week I would like you to consider the following story:

“At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, ‘Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.’ But He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.’” —Matthew 12:1-7

Recently, I received a well-timed reminder about what is most important to God. What shocked me is that God used this reminder to show me, once again, how many “Wrong-God-Picture” roots were truly still left in me.

God did this for me through an insight into Mt. Sinai, which I had never before considered. Here, God was getting the million plus people’s attention with a display of shock and awe. Lightning, thunder, smoke, fire, an earthquake. No wonder He told everyone to “back up.” He wanted to get their attention but didn’t want anyone to get hurt. The point is that after all this display of fire-works (no pun intended) He proceeded to personally, with His own voice, declare what is the most important thing to Him! Out of all the things He could have said at that very moment, what He chose to say was . . . relationships.

He proceeded to teach them how to love: how to love Him and each other. I have to admit that at first I recoiled at this thought. I was used to seeing Sinai as a list of rules. Things God required of me . . . sacrifices to be made to keep God happy. Now I was sensing what Jesus shared with the mislead religious leaders of His day, “What I want is Compassion in how you relate to each other, not greater sacrifice and religious duty! No more lists of rules. Learn to love!”

They had made this mistake with the Sabbath especially. They had made the Sabbath, of all things, about religion instead of relationship.

“Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. They questioned Jesus, asking, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ – so that they might accuse Him. He said to them, ‘What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ Then He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand!’ He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” —Matthew 12:9

Over and over Jesus tried to explain that people are most important.

“Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom” — Matthew 5:20, The Message

Our religious conditioning has left us incapable of truly seeing God as He really is, but Grace is sufficient. He came to give sight to the blind.

Thoughtfully ponder the “picture of God” that Jesus reveals.

“A BATTERED REED HE WILL NOT BREAK OFF, AND A SMOLDERING WICK HE WILL NOT PUT OUT, UNTIL HE LEADS JUSTICE TO VICTORY.

AND IN HIS NAME THE GENTILES WILL HOPE.”

“He won’t walk over anyone’s feelings, won’t push you into a corner. Before you know it, His justice will triumph; the mere sound of His name will signal hope, even among far-off unbelievers.”

—Matthew 12:20-21 NASB and The Message

I wish you God’s best this week.

October 5 Esight, 2008

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.” -Romans 1.17Confidence inspires confidence. Courage rouses courage. Love awakens love. Respect begets respect. Faith enables faith!

You can learn a lot from watching people. I’ve noted that there are two types of people in this world: Those driven by fear and those driven by confidence. The contradiction of these two can be easily seen in how each plays out in their relationships with others. Those whose driving motive is fear usually resort to tactics of control, manipulation, sometimes guilt, but always a gnawing sense that they must ensure certain outcomes or suffer loss. Those who are governed by confidence realize the possibility of loss, but they are ever at peace. They trust in the eternal principles of how things work. They understand that confidence can’t be demanded, love cannot be forced, and respect will never be awakened in others by it being required of them. Their relations with others are uniquely characterized by a strange sense of freedom . . . leaving others free to live as they so choose.

In the wake of these thoughts, I would like you take note of a small statement made by Paul in the beginning of his letter to the believers in Rome. A small statement with huge implications, nonetheless.

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.’” -Romans 1.17 (emphasis added)

Did you catch it? Not only is love only awakened by love, but it appears that faith is only enabled by faith! Now consider the implications. God is not afraid or threatened. God is confident. But notice what He is confident in! He is confident that His love is powerful enough to win our hearts! He does not need to demand or require love. He truly believes this and thus is not interested in forced obedience, as the religious masses would have us believe.

This point is repeated over and over in the New Testament. The object of faith is always love. Love is that which faith is believing in, and although we all agree that God is endeavoring to awaken our faith in His love, do not miss the numerous times in the New Testament that our faith is not the focus, but rather HIS.

“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” -Romans 3.22

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” -Galatians 2.16

“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” – Galatians 3.22

Faith (Pisteos) in each of these verses is in the genitive (possessive) case, which means that it’s not necessarily faith in Jesus but rather the faith of Jesus. As we allow our gaze to trace the path of cause and effect, as we follow with line of sight to that which inspires His faith, we find a love beyond description that inspires Faith within each of us, as well. It is from faith to faith.

God is confident. He truly believes that love will accomplish far more than fear, control and manipulation. Thus, He continually gives us freedom. God trusts that when He lovingly whispers to us and tells us that He genuinely only wants to give to us, that He truly wants nothing from us, His generous, other-centered love alone will inspire in us a deep, unquenchable desire to give Him everything.

Take time this week to meditate, not just on the faith He wants to inspire in us, but the faith that is preveniently in His heart. As you dwell on this, may you find faith in Him as well as the Faith of Him who did not count heaven itself a place to be desired while you and I were outside it’s gates.

“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” -Revelation 14.12 (emphasis supplied)

I wish you God’s best this week.