May 25 Esight, 2008

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, invited to be an apostle . . . among whom you also are invited . . . to all who are loved of God in Rome, you are invited into the other-centeredness of love: Grace to you and peace from God our Father Himself and our Lord Jesus Christ.―Romans 1:1-7 (Personal Translation)

This week, there are three things I would like to point out about the first seven verses of one of the most revolutionary books in the Bible. This book, more than any other, has, century after century, radically changed the way people see God. Three words will be our focus: Apostleship, Invited and Himself.

First, Apostleship. What is an apostle? No, it’s not just a messenger or someone who is sent. Yes, by definition that is included, but consider the twelve. They were invited to have an very intimate relationship with Jesus that very few would have during His life. For three years, they were privileged to be able to relate to Jesus “behind the veil.” Paul states that he, too, was invited to be an apostle even though Jesus had ascended. The three years were over, but God was still extending this level of intimacy to Paul, but not just Paul. Take note! “Among whom you also are invited. . .” Could this truly be what God desires for you too? To enter into the same closeness and understanding that the original twelve were privileged to? Is He really extending that kind of relationship, that level of familiarity, to us?

The second word holds the answer to that question: “Invited.” To invite is defined as “to ask somebody to come or go somewhere or to do something, to ask for something or say that something should be welcomed, to encourage or provoke something that might not have happened otherwise.” God is saying to you that you are welcome to enter in. He is encouraging you to enter, engaging you by the powerful combination of His other-centered love yet leaving you in complete freedom to remain outside. That is what makes His love so attractive. Yes, He wants you, but He only wants you to enter in if that is what you desire as well. Compelling, but not compulsory. Forceful, but not forcing. Deeply attractive, but never overpowering. God’s grand “invitation” to you is for you to enter into this intimacy with Him, the God of the Universe!

Finally, “Himself.” Anyone who knows grammar knows that the “selfs” are only used for two purposes: One, to refer back to the subject, and the other is solely for emphasis. In this text it is used for emphasis. Not because of Jesus, not for Jesus, not by Jesus, but the Father Himself is inviting you.

In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you . . . . John 16:26-27

Can you hear the Father’s voice right now? He is calling . . . The Father Himself is waiting, longing to enter your heart. Why don’t you let Him come in? This week, make the conscious decision to enter into the embrace of His perfect love more deeply. Throw open the doors of your affection, lower your guard, yield to His generous, self-abandoning love for you. Give to Him some of your time this week. Like the apostles of old, walk with Him, speak to Him, but more importantly . . . listen.

I wish you God’s best this week . . .

May 18 Esight, 2008

“For the love of Christ compels us, having concluded this, that one died for all, then all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”— Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15″Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment”—Ghandi

“It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour’s matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary’s cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders.”—Ellen White, The Desire of Ages p. 483

“The law of love being the foundation of the government of God…God desires from all His creatures the service of love–service that springs from an appreciation of His character. He takes no pleasure in a forced obedience; and to all He grants freedom of will, that they may render Him voluntary service.”—Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets p. 35

Fear definitely works on the surface. I remember being fourteen years old and having been introduced to Bible truths for the first time. It was a presentation that I sum up as “Do it or get the plagues.” It worked! I conformed. I made lots of changes. I mean, honestly, it was a no-brainer. Follow God or be punished. So, I cast my lot. I was in!

It was two years before this would all begin to unravel. To make a very long story short, I will simply say that I found myself one morning, at age sixteen, on my knees. I had been overwhelmed, for the very first time, by the fact that God loved me. (For more on this please listen to He Already Had on our free Sermons / Downloads page.)

Loved! This was new. This was different. Even the word does not do justice to what I sensed was in the heart of God for me. I fell to my knees, having never encountered anything like that, and, with tears streaming, decided I would spend the rest of my life endeavoring to help others have this very same encounter. Nothing else mattered. This love was paramount. All else paled in comparison.

Recently, a very dear friend of mine looked at me and blurted out, “I just can’t love a God who says ‘serve me or I’ll kill you’.” Wow! I was taken back. I looked into her eyes and, with all the clarity I could muster, sought to explain: God isn’t saying that at all! God is saying, “Sin brings death, you’re dying, let me save you! Let me give you life!” Two very different pictures of God.

Through Renewed Heart Ministries, I spend an inestimable amount of time each month seeking to reach out and help others see God for what He truly is. Yes, it would be easier to scare people into following God. Yes, there would be larger numbers, greater statistics and baptisms by the droves. I think, however, that as great as these things are, God desires more. He doesn’t want just your behavioral conformity. He wants your heart. He wants you to see His heart. He wants to usher you into an encounter within the veil. He desires an encounter of Love between just you and Him. We must stop to consider that if our service to Him is not based on a voluntary response to His love for us, how fulfilling would it really be for Him? Having said that, I will say that I concede that obedience from any motive is good for us in the sense that, at the very least, it keeps us from self-destructive behaviors. The question is: How meaningful can it be for God to know that we are only following Him because we feel like we have to? Doesn’t He deserve more? Doesn’t He deserve to be loved with the same kind of self-abandonment with which He loves us? Doesn’t He?

Do you desire to have this type of intimate relationship with God? Voluntary. Fulfilling. Meaningful. Free. A relationship based on Love rather than fear of punishment or hope of reward? Allow God, this week, to usher you more deeply into an encounter with three things that are promised to take our hearts captive: Amazing Grace, Extravagant Love and Intimate Friendship. It is in these themes alone that redemption, reconciliation and restoration truly find their accomplished end in us.

I wish you God’s best this week, keep your eyes on His heart…

May 11 Esight, 2008

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever “— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden.—Genesis 3:22-23Does God not know how to make a complete sentence when He talks? Of course He does. Why then do we find that, in His dismissal of Adam and Eve from the garden, He cannot speak? In order to fully appreciate this you must traverse the timeline of the entire history of the human race from beginning to end. From God’s desire to share the pleasure of His other-centered love with us, through the fall, our redemption and restoration.

Our first stop this week is in His admonition to the Hebrews to build a sanctuary. Notice the reason….

“Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.”—Exodus 25:8

Then again, note the desire of Jesus toward the close of His ministry.

“Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me”—John 17:24

Finally, sense His goal for our restoration.

“Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”—1 Thessalonians 4:17

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.”—Revelation 21:3

From the very beginning God has desired nothing greater than to simply be with you, dear reader. He has continually been drawing your heart back to the place were you belong. Here, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17, KJV). He desires for you to be restored to see His Face again (Exodus 33:20, Revelation 6:16, KJV) for it’s been far too long. He longs to stand on the wall, open the gates, and welcome you home.

Why then could He not finish His sentence in Genesis? I believe with all my heart that the pain of being separated from us, from you, was too great. His emotion could not be forfended, His voice choked, and He simply began to weep. Moses kindly steps in and finishes the story with his own words, but God’s separation from us was breaking His heart. God was having to send them away, having to do what He must, but not what His heart wanted.

This week, rather than asking more from Him, why don’t you, along with me, bring a little joy to His heart? We may not be able to be physically with Him yet, but will you give Him some of your time? Just be with Him, with the hope that you and He, although not face to face, can be heart to heart.

I wish you God’s best this week.

May 4 Esight, 2008

“…Jesus Christ, through whom we have caught grace and apostleship ushering us into obedience to faith in the midst of all the Gentiles for His name’s sake.” (Romans 1:4,5; personal translation)There are three things I would like to point out this week that have truly blessed my reading of Romans recently.

First is Paul’s use of the Greek word lambano. Traditionally, this word has been translated as the part each of us must play, what each of us must do, in order to obtain God’s grace. Lambano has been seen as our receiving or acceptance, but the word lambano truly means to take into one’s own possession, to catch something, kind of like “catching” a cold. You see, “God has encircled the whole world with an atmosphere of grace as real as the air which circulates around the globe” (E. G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 69). It’s all around us already; He simply wants us to catch it, as though we were in a room full of germs. (I know, but it’s the best illustration I could think of at this moment.) Or, rather, to be caught up in God’s already present, all-pervading grace.

Second, what Paul caught was not only God’s grace, but also “apostleship.” Apostleship was the avenue by which Paul could express the obedience he desired to give God that had grown out of his faith in God’s love for him. Paul’s heart longed to say, “thank you.”

And, third, this was in plain sight of others for the purpose of declaring God’s name or Character before the world! (“His name’s sake”).

I was asked just last night, “how does one see God correctly, Herb? How do we catch the vision of what He truly is?” Would you like this experience, dear reader? Would you like to be caught up in God’s grace, to see His heart unfurled? And then to be caught up in a deep heartfelt appreciation and gratitude for all He has done for you? He has saved you—do you desire to be overwhelmed with the longing to give your all to Him, to be used by Him to “save” His character from all the lies told about who and what He is? Then spend some time in the atmosphere of God’s unmerited, non-condemning, self-abandoning love this week. Put yourself in a place where you can be “infected.” It’s all around us! The only question is, will you choose to breathe?