September 29 Esight, 2008

“He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in his own heart, but he who does not believe God makes him out to be a liar by refusing to accept God’s testimony of his Son. This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is found in his Son.” -1 John 5:10,11Recently, I have been curiously pondering the belief that many hold of the natural and inherent immortality of the soul. What strikes me is it’s subtle, but effective ability to circumvent the work that God, through the revealing of His love, is seeking to accomplish in our hearts.

First, there is one point that must be clearly understood from the beginning or nothing after this will make sense. God is ever seeking, through the bright rays of Calvary, to convert us from our self-centered bent to His other-centered love.

“And He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves,

but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf”. (2 Corinthians 5.15)

Now consider what happens when you interject the thought that the soul is naturally and inherently immortal.

Everything you do becomes tainted by the desire to convince God to let you spend eternity in heaven rather than hell. Therefore everything in your religious experience will be colored by the desire to be saved! That’s not conversion, that’s self-preservation and we will be destined to always live, ultimately, out of our own self concern for our eternal well being. And as Jesus stated, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it . . .”(Luke 9.24)

But back up! What if the soul is not naturally immortal? The options left are immortality or death (I know . . . still very egocentric at first but keep watching).

” . . .that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” -John 3.16 [emphasis added]

“The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life . . .”-Romans 6.23

Without immortality of the soul, things begin at a different starting point. Pay close attention. In the beginning, Adam and Eve were created with immortality. Yet this immortality was forfeited when they sinned. “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever'” -Genesis 3.22

Mankind lost their immortality! Adam and Eve could not pass on to us what they themselves no longer possessed. “In Adam all die.” -1Corinthians 15.22

So now we are faced with two options: Live forever or perish. We still begin the journey very egocentrically, but notice the hearts transformation as the truth of the Gospel begins to dawn upon us.

We begin to realize that we should be dead right now! We are not immortal! We have sinned! God warned us that “in the day” that we sin we are to die. (Genesis 2:17) Wait! I’ve sinned but I’m still breathing. Modern Christianity would tell us that the reason is because the soul is naturally and inherently immortal and can’t die, but the Gospel cries out a much different explanation! Look carefully at the verse we started with today. Before we exercise any faith on our part, before we respond to the “testimony” given of God’s son in belief or unbelief, that “testimony” is delivered to our hearing! The Gospel comes to us with news of what God has done first, before we have believed or disbelieved it yet! Why is this important? Because look what the news is!!!!! “That God has already given us eternal life!” -1 John 5:11

Before we ever believe or disbelieve, God has already given us eternal life!!! We should be dead! Yet we are alive, not because we are naturally immortal, but because Jesus died for us and rose again . . . all of us! Which means, if the options were eternal life or perish, God has already made a decision for every person that they will live forever! He has accomplished all that was necessary to make this happen for each of us! This is a gift! I know, I know . . . not everyone will be saved in the end, but listen carefully. If anyone is lost at last, it will not be because they did not do enough to convince God to save them! It will be because they threw away the salvation God had already so freely and generously given to all!

Watch what this does to our hearts. No longer is all of our religious duty colored by a desire to convince God to let us live forever rather than perish! Instead, our life becomes a poetic expression of gratitude, appreciation, and love for the One who so generously gave to us. Our entire life becomes centered in the desire to thank Him, to live for Him! Love’s goal accomplished! We “no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died for us and rose again.” Will you believe the gospel, dear reader? God has given you life when you should not be living today! His intension in the gift is that this life will never end, but He has left it up to you. Will you let the life He’s given you be eternal . . . or will you make it temporary?

“Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Do you believe this?

-John 11.26

“For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”

– 1Timothy 4.10

I wish you God’s best this week!

September 21 Esight, 2008

PRAISE THE Lord! (Hallelujah!) O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever! (Psalms 106.1, AMP)This week, I would like you to consider the context of the above declaration of God’s eternal, ever abounding love. In this chapter there is an emphasis and focus that is foreign to much of today’s religious conditioning.

First, the Psalmist sums up our condition:

“We’ve sinned a lot, both we and our parents; We’ve fallen short, hurt a lot of people.” (Psalms 106.6 The Message)

Not only had they hurt a lot of people, but they did not understand or appreciate God’s mercy toward them.

“Our fathers in Egypt understood not nor appreciated Your miracles; they did not [earnestly] remember the multitude of Your mercies nor imprint Your loving-kindness [on their hearts], but they were rebellious and provoked the Lord at the sea, even at the Red Sea.” (Psalms 106.7 AMP)

Did you catch that? Because they did not understand or appreciate God’s mercy and grace, they failed to remember His love! They failed to have His love imprinted on their hearts! This is what led to their rebellion!

Today, due to a failure on our part to understand how central an understanding of God’s love is, and because of our short-sightedness in perceiving that simple doctrinal accuracy is not enough, I see the same thing that existed among Israel existing in our hearts! Leanness in our souls. (Psalms 106:15, AMP)

Don’t misunderstand. The doctrines paint a correct picture of God’s love. The correct standards reveal to us the great principles of God’s other-centered love. But many times we fall into the trap of focusing on the doctrines and standards to the exclusion of allowing these very things to illuminate our hearts to that very other-centered Love that so radically changes our lives.

Notice how God continually responded back then. I believe He responds the same way today.

“Still, when God saw the trouble they were in and heard their cries for help, He remembered his Covenant with them, and, immense with love, took them by the hand. He poured out his mercy on them . . .” (Psalms 106.44 The Message)

“Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.” (Romans 5:20) How did God respond? Yes there was discipline, but even in the context of that discipline He continually poured out His love and grace until they would get it. The reality, however, is that only a few understood. The majority never did.

“Over and over God rescued them, but they never learned.” (Psalms 106.43 The Message)

It is my prayer that Israel’s history will not be repeated by God’s people today. Yet, the only way for that to be circumvented is for us, personally, to make it our emphasis, our focus, our quest to understand and appreciate His grace, His compassion, His great other-centeredness. Only this emphasis will enable us so that we can have that imprint or seal of His love upon our hearts and lives. God’s great self-abandoning love! This is to be our message, our banner, our emphasis, our cry to this pain-racked world. Only this will answer, finally, the “controversy” that began so long ago in regards to His character of love.

“The Whole Spiritual Life is molded by our conception of Him, and if we cherish erroneous views of His character, our souls will sustain injury!” (White, Review and Herald, January 14, 1890)

I wish you God’s best this week.

September 15 Esight, 2008

The great ladies of Persia and Media, who have heard what the queen has said, will quote this day to all the king’s officers, and there will be no end to the disrespect and discord! If it please your majesty, let a royal decree be issued by you . . . never to be revoked, that Vashti shall not again appear before King Ahasuerus; and let your majesty give her place as queen to another who is more worthy of it than she. When the edict made by the king is proclaimed throughout the length and breadth of the kingdom, all women, high and low alike, will give honour to their husbands . . . Dispatches were sent to all the king’s provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in their own language, in order that each man, whatever language he spoke, should be master in his own house. (Esther 1:17-22)The Gospel of Esther. For quite some time now I have believed that Mathew, Mark, Luke and John are not the only Gospels in the Bible. In fact, every book of the Bible is a “Gospel” in its own right. The purpose of every book is to illuminate the darkness in each of our hearts in regards to our picture of God. Yet, what does the book of Esther contribute to our concept of God and His other-centered love? Though there are many gospel lessons in this book, there is one that stands out above the rest. Two great principles are contrasted.

First, we find women being kept “in line” by decree, control, and fear. Women kept “in line?” That phrase brings a crooked smile to my face. You see, I was raised by a single mom and I can already hear how she would be ranting at the thought of it. But outside of gender issues, notice the principles used by one to control another. Law, control and fear.

Next, we are introduced to Modecai and Haman’s scuffle. Modecai refuses to “bow” to show Haman the respect and honor he feels he deserves. So how does Haman respond? “Kill ‘em all!”

What is alarming to me is that many people picture God to be exactly like King Ahasuerus and his servant Haman. God is “keeping us in line” through the methods of Law, through control and fear. We had better do as He says or we’ll end up “like Vashti.” But stop for a minute! Isn’t this exactly why Lucifer was given time and did not immediately meet the fate of death that sprang from his rebellion? If Lucifer would have been destroyed, the angelic hosts would not have understood how or why it came about! But secondly, assuming God had wiped Lucifer out for his rebellion, they would have either rebelled themselves or buckled down under a much more shallow version of “service.” They themselves would have remained loyal, placing their necks under the yoke of the “master of the house.” Their obedience would have been driven by the fear that what was “done” to Lucifer would be “done” to them if they did not submit.

And Haman? Many today feel as if God’s final act on this planet will be to, with blood dripping from His fangs, wipe out all who have refused to “bow,” so to speak.

Are these really the principles God uses to win our hearts? Absolutely not! God forbid! For these principles can only ever win outward conformity, but never accomplish inward transformity. (I know that’s not a real word, but it rhymes, give me some grace.) It will win outward obedience but these principles can never truly win our hearts. At best, they will cement us in our own self concern and self preservation, but never transform us into the likeness of God’s self-abandoning love.

Then where do we see God in the book of Esther? Where are the principles of the King and Haman contrasted? It’s in the decision made by Esther herself. (My mom would be beaming that it was through a woman!)

When faced with the proposition of death, Esther’s mind was set. She would risk all to save the lives of her people.

‘Go and assemble all the Jews that are in Susa, and fast on my behalf; for three days, night and day, take neither food nor drink, and I also will fast with my maids. After that, in defiance of the law, I shall go to the king; if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)

Ponder this well, dear reader. In this statement we see self-sacrifice. We see self-abandonment. We see other-centeredness. In short, we see love! Love for her people caused Esther to risk her well-being for the good of others. To put them first rather than herself. Is this where we find God in the book of Esther?

Consider the cross. John wrote these words in response to God’s own “risk” that He took to save us:

Having loved his own, He loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

Or as the Amplified version states it:

And as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He loved them to the last and to the highest degree. (John 13:1, AMP)

And why? Control, manipulation, guilt, fear and legislation? No, NEVER! You were made for love from a willing heart, not forced devotion! God isn’t interested in getting anything from you, but in continually giving to you. When faced with the prospect of staying on the cross and never seeing His Father’s reconciling face again, the God of this universe encountered love for You beyond description. His final thoughts were, “I will save YOU at any cost to Myself, and ‘if I perish, I perish!”

Dear friend, will you allow this selfless love to become your picture of the God of this universe? If you will, you will truly never be the same.

“For the love of Christ controls us once we have reached the conclusion that one man died for all and therefore all mankind has died. He died for all so that those who live should cease to live for themselves . . .” ( 2 Corinthians 5:14,15 REB)

I wish you God’s best this week!

September 8 Esight, 2008

When Jacob had worked seven years for Rachel, and they seemed like a few days because he loved her.—Genesis 29:20First let me apologize for being absent the last two weeks. We have received many emails from those who missed getting their e-sight last week. I am so sorry. I am in Loma Linda as I write this, about to speak. I have also just finished a week in northern California where I was privileged to watch God do what He does best with the students at Rio Lindo Academy. I’ll fill you in on all the miraculous details in next month’s newsletter.

This week, I would like you to muse over the above words considering Jacob and his love for Rachel. Time became “relative” for Jacob. Years seemed like days! Why? Because “he loved her.”

This brings Peter’s words to mind, “Here is something, dear friends, which you must not forget: in the Lord’s sight one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. It is not that the Lord is slow in keeping His promise, as some suppose, but that He is patient with you. It is not His will that any should be lost, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8, 9)

Did you catch that? God is not slow about fulfilling the promise of return, yet He is dragging His feet! Why? Because He, in His inmost heart, is not “willing” for any to perish. He cannot bring Himself to return yet. His heart will not permit Him. Yet, though He must wait, the years seem as only days to Him. Why? “. . . because He loves her.” He loves YOU! He is preparing a place for YOU. (John 14:2,3) It takes time. This will be a place where there will no longer be any more “mourning and crying and pain, for the old order has passed away!” (Revelation 21:4) No matter how long it takes, He cares so much for YOU that every sacrifice is a delight, every gift a pleasure. Though it may take thousands of years, and it has, these seem as only days to Him.

Stop and listen. He loves you! Do you realize that, dear reader? Do you know what that means? Ponder it well, for those three simple words are the most disbelieved words in the English language. But He does! He is especially fond of you. He doesn’t care how long it takes. He will be patient. For you, He has risked all. You are the apple of His eye, and He will do whatever it takes to restore and save you into His perfect love.

Do you want that, dear friend? I do. I don’t want to be one who makes Him wait any longer. If that is your hope as well, tell Him about that. Give Him your all, right now. Hold nothing back. You are already in His heart, won’t you let Him be in yours? Be one who will not only “look” for His return, but “hasten” it! (2 Peter 3:12)

I wish you God’s best this week.